Conversations on Dance in Baltimore

As some of you know, I’ve been sitting down with small groups of dancers in the Baltimore region for many weeks now. I’ve tried to keep the conversations as open-ended as possible around the very generic questions “What makes dance work in Baltimore?” “What does Baltimore need to make dance work?” The answers usually spiral wonderfully (especially if there’s a nice diverse group of people around the table) into very specific, shared challenges.

This place ( is an extension of these conversations.

Finding available resources is a recurring challenge that comes up in these conversations. But, we have technology. To that end, if I can call this the “official launch” for this site, over on the side, you will find links to 38 places to perform (from 40 to 2500+ seats), 32 studios you can rent (to practice, rehearse, learn, or… dance), 10 organizations in the region that support dance to some degree, and 116 places to learn dance (6 of which will give you a degree, and several others that have multiple physical locations). I know these lists are incomplete (and they always will be), but if you know something I missed, down on the lower-right you’ll find a list of “tip” links to give me a clue. Please do. I need a lot of clues.

And there is movement (and potential movement) in the dance world for Baltimore. For now, to get a conversation going, I thought I’d mention a few huge (money) things that touch the dance world of Baltimore in some way. Maybe in ways you don’t expect. There’s a lot more, particularly down in the individual-dance-company level that I’d love to (and will) explore, but I don’t want to get too far into the weeds right off the bat.

About two years ago, the second phase of the Performing Arts and Humanities building at UMBC opened, with their Dance Cube (a 3500 square foot space made for dance), a Dance Technology Center (2400 square feet with fun technology), the Proscenium Theatre (250 seats), and a couple dance studio spaces.

Less than a year ago, Motor House opened, with a new performance space. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for all dance, since there’s relatively low steel beam situation in the ceiling and a dance-brutal concrete floor, so the vertically- and impact-oriented among you are kinda left out on this one.

Today, work progresses on City Arts 2 will include dance studio space but is mostly artist-oriented living space. That’s a huge deal for dancers that need to live on a dancer budget. City Arts 2 should open in a few months.

Also in that neighborhood, pay attention to OpenWorks, because this massive ($10 million) makerspace will give the dancers of Baltimore unprecedented access to tools and technologies for just the cost of a monthly membership, and they have a textile studio, so costuming (along with electronics, 3D printing, laser cutters, and wood and metal shops) is coming to Station North.

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank as committed $5 million to renovate and expand the recreation center at 1100 East Fayette (what is now the Carmelo Anthony Youth Center), which will include a “dance and yoga space.” There’s also a good chance (but not a lot of detail) that dance can figure into the massive Port Covington project. And I do mean massive – this is one of the, if not the largest urban development projects in the country. There’s already a makerspace with a textile studio in that neighborhood (Foundery). Massive it is, and comes with drama. I haven’t even tried to navigate that drama, but there is a great opportunity to engage this project to serve the Baltimore dance community in some capacity. That does take some organization on the part of the dancers of Baltimore.

The city is also engaged, to some degree. In July 2015, we got a city-wide plan to upgrade and expand recreation centers (becoming “Fitness and Wellness Centers”). Particularly interesting in that general initiative is the planned expansion of the Cahill Performing Arts Center to 32,000 square feet. Unfortunately, information on the “recreation industry” tends to lump things like “folk dancing” and “jazzercise” into the same “fitness and wellness” category. Likewise, the scope of “arts and culture” ranges from dance performance to cooking lessons. With millions of dollars flowing into neighborhoods around the city, bending just a bit of that toward dance (your dance) is a real opportunity. What this means for dance in Baltimore is that these facilities will come on-line over the next several years (there are outstanding issues about funding), so there is time to influence some of the details. At the very least, some of you may want to teach in these new places. Again, organization matters. What does dance need?

I’ve said a lot, but ultimately what I want to say is that there is a very special moment happening in Baltimore right now that could change a lot of things for people that dance in this city.

I offer you this place to help make that happen.

If you’d like to contribute to this site, please get in touch. If you’d like to contribute off-line, please get in touch. There’s a general contact form available in the lower-right corner.

If you’d like to sit down and talk about some of these things, I’ll be doing that all summer. After that, I’m going to buckle down and get to work on the good stuff.

Welcome to this adventure.

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