Galaxy Dance Studios
Can Lorn MacDougal save South Lamar's movement space?
You might think Lorn MacDougal is crazy for taking on the duties of artistic director of Galaxy Dance Studios, a position that six other competent professionals have left in the organization's four-year history. You might think she's even crazier for doing it for free.
But MacDougal thinks – in fact, she knows – that Galaxy is a major asset to the contemporary dance community, even if the community isn't sure of it yet. The South Lamar suite fills a south-central void for studio space, and the largest of its four studios can be set up for performances. With their sprung, Marmoleum-covered floors, in hues of orange sherbet and leek green, and acoustic ceiling tiles, the studios are not quite beautiful but bright, clean, and comfortable. So for the past nine months, MacDougal has programmed the school's classes (the independent renters are handled by a general manager), guided teachers, and curated performances. As a volunteer, she says, she's been able to set limits that perhaps the half-dozen salaried directors before her could not.
When you expect nothing in return, your actions are not bound by an equation. Perhaps that's why innovation, as much as altruism, has driven MacDougal's chapter of Galaxy leadership. Since George "Buzz" and Angel Avery, middle-aged members of an ecstatic dance group (read: free-form new-age feel-good groove meetup) that frequently rents the studios, founded Galaxy in 2009, they've failed to make the position sustainable. Lack of continuity has made it difficult for anyone running the place to break even – the rent is more than $10,000 a month – let alone plan for long-term survival. Frances Mohler, who held the position for about a year, found the Averys to be too controlling of the class schedule. When she left in 2011, she was incensed enough to take her 26 students with her. Andrea Ariel, who was hired in August of 2011 and brought her company, Ariel Dance Theatre, in residence but uprooted again after less than six months, laments the owners' lack of understanding that a financial "cushion" was needed to develop a strategic, artistic vision for the long term. Understanding that Galaxy is running out of chances, MacDougal's attitude is can-do, bootstraps. Need seating risers? Ikea hack. Performance space needs visibility? Give indie choreographers an incentive with an affordable co-production arrangement. Need rent money? Bring the breakdance teacher to show off (and attract students) at elementary schools.
A quiet crusader, MacDougal is subtly honing the class schedule from an anything-goes approach toward more curated offerings – for example, a children's creative dance and drawing camp replaced a slightly tacky princess pre-ballet – and highlighting the performance space through co-productions, such as Nicole Roerick's Morose Beauty in May, a success by all measures. Next up, MacDougal and her partner Alain Le Razer, under their organization All Things Animate, will present Made in Austin, a program of short works by Magdalena Jarkowiec, Lisa Del Rosario, Rosalyn Nasky, Roerick, and MacDougal, and films by Le Razer and Katherine Hodges.
There's also a possibility on the horizon, says MacDougal, of a large-scale partnership, a cohabitation of the space with another organization, though she can't disclose details yet. Given that the lease is up in November, leaving Galaxy at risk for a rent hike, one hopes the plan comes through. "It's something we all need," MacDougal insists. "We need spaces not just to teach, but to dance and to create." Ariel's similar sentiments, in a separate conversation, suggest the irony that so many members of the dance community have been working on the Galaxy problem, only in inefficient succession rather than collaboration. "The space has heart," maintains Ariel. "Otherwise, you wouldn't have all these people who tried."
Made in Austin will be performed June 14-15, Friday & Saturday, 8pm, in the Studio Theater at Galaxy Dance Studios, 1700 S. Lamar #338. For more information, visit www.allthingsanimate.com.
Galaxy Dance Studios, Austin dance, Lorn MacDougal, Alain Le Razer, All Things Animate, Lisa Del Rosario, Magdalena Jarkowiec, Rosalyn Nasky, Nicole Roerick, Frances Mohler, Andrea Ariel, Katherine Hodges