Studio Owners

Your Studio Space: USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance Opens the Ultimate Dream Dance Facility

Renderings by Pfeiffer Partners Architects, courtesy of USC Kaufman

Located at the gateway to the University of Southern California's arts neighborhood, the USC Kaufman building facade and exterior have been designed in traditional Collegiate Gothic style. USC Kaufman partners with arts organizations and dance companies, such as The Music Center and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, to present dance performances and workshops.


“I like to think of this building as state-of-the-art," says Jodie Gates, the inaugural director and vice dean of the University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. “There is a feeling of spaciousness and expansiveness that dancers need—to create, to think, to move, to reimagine."

At nearly 55,000 square feet, the Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center, scheduled for completion this month, is a formidable space, one that might be better described as “future-of-the-art." Designed by a team of architects led by William Murray, a principal at Los Angeles' Pfeiffer Partners Architects, the three-story structure, the school's new home, houses six studios with soaring cathedral ceilings. Los Angeles philanthropist Glorya Kaufman donated the funds for the project and got Gates' input—as well as the advice of choreographers like William Forsythe, who is on faculty at the school, and Ohad Naharin—on the layout, function and design of the building.

Renderings by Pfeiffer Partners Architects, courtesy of USC Kaufman

It all serves what Gates calls "the New Movement," the philosophy of a dance program that rethinks the principles of higher dance education. "The students in this program will be given a box of tools to take with them whether they become performers, choreographers, filmmakers or CEOs," says Gates. "The beauty in all of this is that we have the ability to design a curriculum speaking to the needs of today's dance artists. We're developing the hybrid dance artist."

BFA undergraduates may study heady subjects such as “Colloquium: History of Performance and Cultural Context" and “Dance Leadership: Dance Management and Entrepreneurship." (This year's inaugural freshman class has 33 dancers, but future classes will be more intimate—around 16 to 20 for each undergraduate year.) The program's emphasis on multimedia and interdisciplinary collaboration lets students choose concentrations like choreography for stage and cinematic arts or dance and music. It also requires dancers to study hip hop. “For our dancers, learning the leadership skills to become highly trained hybrid artists and scholars in the field now means working fluidly across mediums and between dance styles," says Gates.

Architectural renderings of building and studios.

Floors Create a Cushion of Quiet

A hybrid approach extends to the construction of the school's Harlequin dance floors. Four studios have marley surfaces to accommodate ballet and contemporary classes, and another two are equipped with wood surfaces for other dance styles. All of the floors are sprung with a basket-weave substrate for cushioning and sound insulation. “We wanted to make sure you can have tap in one room, hip hop in another, ballet in a third, contemporary or jazz in a fourth, and not disturb one another," says Jeff de Caen, associate dean for operations at USC Kaufman and Thornton School of Music.

The secret to the soundproofing lies in the construction of the floors, which are floated, rather than attached to the foundation. They sit on neoprene pads and insulation that transmit the lateral load. “They can move in reaction to dancers or audio without shaking or disturbing the rest of the structure," says de Caen.

Moving Beyond Mirrors

The largest studio, called the Performance Studio, measures 3,591 square feet and can serve as a multipurpose rehearsal space, a black-box theater or a full proscenium stage with 140 retractable seats, withdrawable wings and a motorized cyclorama. It has state-of-the-art projection, video, audio and lighting technology. It is also mirrorless, to allow artists to process movement internally rather than externally. Students will also perform on stages in other buildings and do site-specific work. The school's first floor also has four mirrored studios, ranging from 2,300 to 2,500 square feet. Arched windows flood the studios with light.

Renderings by Pfeiffer Partners Architects, courtesy of USC Kaufman

A 21st-Century Environment

Very few details have been overlooked in the design. The first-floor hallways have curved corners, to avoid 90-degree angularity and offer a more pleasing aesthetic. The hallways provide ledges at barre height so dancers can stretch between classes or rehearsals. The water fountains supply filtered-water refilling stations. All the studios have sophisticated audio-visual centers that connect to the building's main network, so that, for example, a live-streamed cinema-cast from the Bolshoi Ballet can be viewed simultaneously in all the studios. The wall-mounted flat screens in the studios can be individually or centrally controlled, and all the studios are equipped with a sound system. The internet connections feature the fastest and broadest bandwidth available.

Renderings by Pfeiffer Partners Architects, courtesy of USC Kaufman

The center's mezzanine level includes men's and women's dressing rooms. There is also a theater control room with video-editing capabilities above the performance studio. And for visitors, a viewing balcony above two of the first-floor studios allows for eagle-eye perspective. Also on the mezzanine level: a small fitness and training zone with somatic equipment, although students can use the well-equipped fitness center at the new USC Village across the street, which will house up to 3,000 square feet of shops and retail space.

On the second floor, students can work in the “small" studio (more than 2,000 square feet); four academic classrooms with capacities for 30 to 60 students each; a conference room and kitchenette; and a collaborative space that dance majors can use 24 hours a day, along with their fellow student musicians, video artists and students from across the university. Additionally, the second floor houses the faculty offices, dressing rooms and meeting rooms. All of these amenities further Gates' belief that “dance creation and innovation need time, support and space."

Groundbreaking in April 2014, with (from left) dean Robert Cutietta, Glorya Kaufman, USC president C.L. Max Nikias and Jodie Gates. Photo by Gus Ruelas, courtesy of USC Kaufman

“Theoretically and philosophically, the center is a nexus point for Los Angeles and dance on the West Coast," says de Caen. “Now you've got this brick-and-mortar flag in the sand that says 'This is how committed we are.'"

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At the start of last night's episode of "So You Think You Can Dance," 41 dancers remained. An hour later, we had a Top 20. And then there was a BIG FAT TWIST. (We'll get to that.)

The 41 still-standing Academy dancers showed up at the Dolby Theater in L.A. ready to tackle three rounds: contemporary choreography with seven-time Emmy nominee and one-time "SYTYCD" contestant Travis Wall; an "epic group routine" with jazz choreographer and La La Land she-ro Mandy Moore; and a last-chance solo showdown. Here's what happened.

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"I'm not looking for robots," SuperTrav immediately explained. He gave the dancers shapes, but from there, each was expected to make the choreography his or her own. Everyone got sweaty and exhausted, and after 90 minutes, it was time to perform in groups of three for Nigel, Mary, Vanessa, and Travis.


Allen Genkin

The ballroom babe struggled during hip hop last week, but (naturally) crushed the ballroom choreography. This time around, the judges still couldn't resist Allen's charm, and he got to stay—though, Nigel said, "We need more."

Cole Mills

Cole has stood out during each round of choreography thus far, and not just because of his full-back tattoo. Travis called him absolutely beautiful. "I don't know where you came from or where you've trained, but I am very excited for you," TWall said. And he made it through.

Tessa Dalke

The pressure was on for this early favorite—and the judges weren't feeling her contemporary performance. Vanessa was expecting more, Travis didn't think she commanded the space with her energy, and Nigel said she needed to step up. But they weren't ready to give up on her, so she stayed for jazz.

Sydney Moss

She stood out, Nigel said, simply. She got to stick around, too.

Hannahlei Cabanilla

All the judges agreed that they couldn't take their eyes off her. Hannahlei made it on to jazz as well.

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The ballet dancer didn't totally crush Travis's choreography, so the judges decided to send him home. "I hate this part," Travis said through gritted teach. (We hate it, too.)

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Evan DeBenedetto

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Bridget Derville-Teer

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Emily Carr

Emily was totally captivating in this round. Her jumps were the highest, her expression the fullest, her performance the boldest. Travis thought the competition was hers to lose: "Girl, I can't wait for you to get on the show so I can work with you," he said. Holy ultimate compliment, TravMan!

The Group Production Number

With 33 dancers left, it was time to bring in Mandy Moore for the final round of choreography. Her jazzy group routine featured all the dancers shining in their individual styles, plus a grand finale where everyone came together. "If they can't hang in the group routine, then it is cutsville, buh bye," Mandy said. STONE. COLD.



This routine looked so fun. (Was anyone else standing up, trying to learn it at home? No? Just us? OK.) The high-energy choreography was fairly simple, but there was a LOT of it. Each group got just an hour to perfect their portion of the routine—and to choreograph two eight-counts of the performance themselves. Intense much?

There were so many wonderful moments during the enthusiastic performance. Emily Carr was a standout again. The tappers looked awesome, and Jensen Arnold had undeniable presence. (The entire ballroom group is looking super strong this year, TBH.) The exhausting routine earned a standing O from the four judges, whom we were not envying at that point.



But cuts had to be made, and Tessa Dalke, sadly, was one of them. Other favorites—Alexis Gilbert, Jay Jackson, Gaevin Bernales—were sent home, too.

The Last-Chance Solo Round

The remaining 27 dancers got to perform one final solo before the judges chose the Top 20. Jay Jay Dixonbey's number was powerful, precise, and pretty darn perfect. Chelsea Hough rocked heels for hers. Hannahlei Cabanilla earned a "love. her." from Mary. And Allen Genkin wrapped things up with a booty wiggle, a big smile, and a Magic Mike-esque shirt toss that Nigel called "a little desperate." (AGREE TO DISAGREE, NIGEL.)

Without further ado...

The "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 15 Top 20

THE GUYS

Jay Jay Dixonbey

Cole Mills

Justin Pham

Slavik Pustovoytov

Peyton Albrecht

Dustin Payne

Evan DeBenedetto

Darius Hickman

Kyle Bennett, Jr.

Allen Genkin

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Genessy Castillo

Magda Fialek

Jensen Arnold

Stephanie Sosa

Dayna Madison

Sydney Moss

Brianna Penrose

Chelsea Hough

Emily Carr

Hannahlei Cabanilla

BUT WAIT. After the reveal, there was another reveal: Turns out only 10 dancers will continue on to the live shows. What is happening?!

Next week, each of the Top 20 dancers will be paired with an All Star and a choreographer. See you then for more madness!

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