Anchorage Ballet seeks funds for expansion project
The Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy is embarking on a public fundraising campaign to fund an expansion project to add studio space to its current midtown location.
The Anchorage Ballet is about halfway through its Kickstarter campaign, but construction is already underway to expand the facility. The nonprofit organization has already received over 20 backers and about $3,000 worth of pledges out of the $8,000 it’s looking to raise through the public funding website.
The overall renovation costs, however, are well into the tens of thousands, according to the Ballet’s Kickstarter video. The academy has already received a grant from the Atwood Foundation, along with a few personal donations, says Anchorage Ballet principal Farrah Canale. With those funds, the Ballet plans to add one new studio, increase storage space and extend its lobby area.
The project was made possible when a community center vacated the space adjacent to the Ballet, says Canale. The renovation comes at a much-needed time, she says.
“We were bursting at the seams last year,” said Canale. “And we were only able to accommodate a certain number of students depending on the space we had.”
Canale and her husband, the academy’s founder and artistic director Michelangelo Canale, moved into the space on West International Airport Road in 2001 and have since outgrown it.
Canale says the academy has added 10 classes to this year’s schedule, bringing the total to 64 classes offered a week. With 239 students currently enrolled, building another studio will hopefully eliminate the academy’s wait list and allow it to meet the need in the community for new students.
Part of the goal in expanding is to add storage space for props, sets, costumes and personal belongings, along with a separate area for staff.
“We employ approximately 15 people,” Canale said. “Up until now, they’ve been sharing space with students.”
Limited space is a problem one of the academy’s donors, Tanya Weaver, says she noticed.
“They needed to expand,” said Weaver. “They don’t have the room.”
The 51-year-old is a lifelong dancer and has been taking classes at the academy since 2009. That was also around the same time she became a donor.
“They bring more dance to the community of Anchorage and I want that, we want that,” said Weaver, who became a continuous donor after she and her husband attended one of the academy’s performances.
Anchorage Ballet isn’t the only dance company in town. Also in midtown is the Alaska Dance Theatre, which has been in Anchorage longer and offers a larger array of class offerings.
Weaver says her decision to support Anchorage Ballet has everything to do specifically with the future of ballet in the municipality. Canale says her academy’s main focus is ballet, and Weaver agrees.
“I like their curriculum for the kids,” Weaver said. “They make them work, and they help them achieve their goal. They’re more concentrated on ballet. More students there are serious about ballet.”
In addition to helping to rear the academy’s novice ballet dancers, Canale says she hopes this expansion will increase production value of the shows, which are put on by the more advanced classes.
This season, there are three main performances, including a rendition of “The Nutcracker,” a holiday favorite. This year, Canale plans to once again bring guest artists in for the season’s first major performance, Dec. 12-13.
“It’s a great mentorship for the young dancers here to be able to spend time with them and learn from them,” Canale said of the guest artists.
She says the academy has even brought back former Anchorage Ballet dancers who’ve joined companies out-of-state as guest artists.
It’s a move Weaver says she supports.
“That gives the students an opportunity to learn from someone else,” Weaver said. “So the kids are getting a broader repertoire. You learn different things from different people.”
Canale says she hopes construction will wrap in a few weeks. Then, it’s on to the beautification of the new space.
Weaver says she’s excited for the final reveal. It will be evidence that her money is being put to good use.
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