Saturday will mark a milestone for the city’s dance community when the region’s first venue designed specifically for dance and open to independent companies opens in Marietta with a performance of Metamorphosis by the Kennesaw State University Dance Company.
“I’m hoping this will become, in time, like the Joyce of the South,” says KSU dance chair and professor Ivan Pulinkala. He thinks the new theater has the potential to lead the way in the Atlanta dance scene much as the renowned dance venue the Joyce Theatre has become a beacon for the dance world in New York.
Pulinkala has overseen the year-long transformation of the disused former theater on the property of KSU’s recently acquired Marietta campus, with a budget just under $1 million, into a state-of-the-art performance venue. “It will really serve our community to have a designated space for dance,” he says.
The revamped 450-seat theater — which features a permanently sprung Marley stage floor, new lighting grid, a specially built-out crossover and an updated 96-speaker sound system — is primarily designed to be used by KSU for its student dance concerts, formerly held in the Howard Logan Stillwell Theatre on the Kennesaw campus. The Marietta Dance Theater will open with the world premiere of Metamorphosis, a 45-minute work featuring 19 dancers from the KSU Dance Company. Set to an original instrumental score by KSU music major Eric Ramos and an original choral score by Michael Engelhardt, the piece will include 60 singers from the KSU Chorus.
But Pulinkala says one of the things he’s actually most excited about is opening up the new dance venue to the Atlanta dance community. The KSU Dance department rehearses and holds classes in its studios on the Kennesaw campus and typically puts on just three productions a year, which means the university will only be using the new theater for a few weeks each semester, freeing up the venue for inexpensive rentals for Atlanta’s small companies and independent dance artists.
“Dancers are like all artists, we make do with anything,” Pulinkala says. “Sometimes we’re dancing in the crappiest situations. Tell us to produce something on the sidewalk, and we’ll make it happen. Our local dance artists are really challenged to produce work because there isn’t a suitable venue. They don’t have the production engine behind them. The Atlanta Ballet can fill the Cobb Energy Centre, but who else can in the dance community?”
Since KSU is a state school, Pulinkala says rental fees will be set low and will be used primarily to recoup the costs of running the theater, making it among the most affordable rentals in town.
“A company can walk in the door and start tech,” says Pulinkala. “The floor is down, the lights are there. We have an incredible sound system. It will really have all the bells and whistles that will be a dream for the dance community . . . . I want dancers to walk on that stage, perform and never forget the theater.”