School for Classical & Contemporary Dance returns to renovated Erma Lowe Hall

The School for Classical & Contemporary Dance will return to the renovated Erma Lowe Hall after being in the University Recreation Center since December 2010, Susan Douglas Roberts, professor of dance said.

Steve Kintigh, director of Campus Recreation, said the renovation was initially going to start in August 2010 but was pushed back to January, allowing the staff to know beforehand what would and would not be available for the dance school.

The Rec Center was able to fully accommodate the dance school by making Multipurpose Room 1  into two studios with the help of a wall, Kintigh said. Room 48, a large conference room, was also turned into a Pilates room where the dancers could partake in their daily exercises. 

“You get a sense as to how hard they’re working, how many students are involved in it and the amount of time and crazy hours they put into it,” Kintigh  said. “They adapted to our schedule; we adapted to theirs.”

Roberts said the building had an entirely new configuration with so much space and natural light. 
“The way it’s been reconstructed inside is even more inviting than before,” Roberts  said. “Visitors can easily watch classes on all three levels.”

While new studios were not included in the renovation, there were other new spaces that would assist in teaching and learning, Roberts said. Among the renovations were a much more spacious Pilates/Somatics lab, a costume shop, a 26-station Mac lab and a dancer lounge where dancers can enjoy a new kitchen.

According to the dance department’s website, the dance building, which was built in 1921, was TCU’S first gymnasium. The Ballet & Modern Dance building was its original name, but it was renamed the Erma Lowe Hall in September 2010 in honor of the late Erma Lowe, who was an avid volunteer, philanthropist and TCU trustee.

“The generosity of Erma Lowe’s family in supporting this renovation is a key aspect to the success of the project,” Roberts said.

Junior ballet major Jenn Shinn said having a dancers’ locker room will be one of the greatest gifts coming out of the renovation. Prior to the renovation, dancers had to share a restroom/locker room with the public.

“While we would be changing and doing our hair and makeup for the next piece, audience members would be walking in and out of the bathroom,” Shinn  said. “It definitely took some of the magic and mystery out of the productions.”

Although only in the Rec Center for a short time, Shinn said she believed the dance school may have received recognition on campus. Roberts  compared the experience to being in a fish tank because people would pass by and look into the studios to see what was happening.

Shinn said the exposure the dance department received while dancing in the Rec Center was definitely an advantage.

“I would have people ask what we were rehearsing and become interested,” Shinn  said.  “Some people would even recognize the dances or music, which really made them want to come see the shows.”

Everything except for Studio B is in working order, Roberts said. There will be last-minute touches and refinements for the next six weeks, but Roberts  encouraged all to visit the Erma Lowe Hall.