Canada’s second largest ballet company seeks funds for a new facility 

Alberta Ballet has the prestige of being Canada’s second largest ballet company. But it’s also in need of a new home, having wanted to build a new facility since 2011. And now the company is in the process of trying to secure the funding needed to do that.

The solution is to build a new facility that will have the school and dance studios in one building.

Alberta Ballet’s two current buildings don’t have enough studios, and the ones it does have are too small. As a result, dance times have to be shortened, ultimately cutting the amount of practice time dancers and performers have access to. Additionally, they have no large space for full rehearsals for their largest productions.

Prior to the space being used by the Alberta Ballet, the studios were used as squash courts. Students such as Heather and Rachel Thomson, who have been training with the company for the past four years, worry about the construction of the floors, as it’s not conducive to the sport.

“They put the dance floor on top of the hardwood so they’re not actually sprung floors that Photograph taken September 3, 2014 of all the point shoes Rachel has purchased and worn within the last two months of dancing.

Photo courtesy of Rachel Thomson professionals use,” says Thomson. “The building now doesn’t have the true foundation of a dance floor.”

When executive director Martin Bragg came to Alberta Ballet four and a half years ago, his main goal was to address these issues.

The solution was to build a new facility that would have the school and dance studios in one building.

“I am vey passionate about this project happening,” says Bragg. “This new building will help the amateur dancers to see the older company professionals to give them a goal to works towards.”

Right now, the company is broken up into two facilities – one that houses its administrative offices and artistic studio, and the other that houses its school.

The school building is on the second floor of a conservative glass stucco office building on 12th Avenue S.W. Meanwhile, the administrative offices and artistic studio are in an old-fashioned red brick historical building on 18th Avenue S.W.

That’s inconvenient for students such as the Thomson sisters, who have been training with the company for the past four years. According to Rachel, its about “ten blocks” between the two buildings. Heather says that’s a problem when it’s -30c because “it isn’t great for dancers to be moving in and out of cold weather, so it would be helpful to have everything in one building.”

The entrance to the historical building of Alberta Ballet that currently facilitates the administration and artistic studios.

Photo by Savaya ShinkarukIn 2005 the National Ballet School located in Toronto went through the same process as Alberta Ballet to facilitate their school and dance studios in one building.

To Frank Randall, facility manager at the National Ballet School, it’s important to utilize the space available for the dancers benefit.

This includes professional dance sprung floors, large dance studios, and an inspiring and attractive facility.It’s important to Bragg to keep the historical location of where both buildings are currently located, so the new facility will cater to this.

The parking lot, next to the historical building, will be utilized for four large studios, a wellness center, food area, and administrative offices.

Alberta Ballet hopes to obtain both federal and provincial government contributions of $30 million toward the project, with the city adding another $25 million. Alberta Ballet will be responsible for raising an additional $30 million in private funding.A group shot of the Alberta Ballet dancers for the 2014 Year End performance. The costumes the girls are wearing are for the dance “Ethiopia” choreographed by Artistic Director Jean Grand Maitre.

Photo courtesy of Paul McGrath

With government funding and private support, the Alberta Ballet will continue to flourish and add to its remarkable history.

Since the 1950s Alberta Ballet has been producing contemporary and classical ballet professional performances, having added teaching to its repertoire in 1991.

Over that time period, the company has seen a significant amount of growth. Alberta Ballet now has reached an enrollment of 500 students and is one of the leading training institutions in Canada.

“A capital project like this does not usually get federally funded,” said Bragg, “but it’s time it did.”

Ideally the new Alberta Ballet facility will be finished September 2019 according to Bragg.

sshinkaruk@cjournal.ca