The College announced a controversial plan Friday to replace part of the Quad’s main athletic facility with a dance center, sparking anger from Quad residents but creating relief for soon-to-be studio-less dancers.
The renovation accommodates dancers who will lose their current space after the Radcliffe Institute for Adanced Study reclaims the Rieman Center for Dance in 2005.
While dancers said they are relieved to know their programs have a new home, students from the Quad and the Undergraduate Council have been vocal in their protests of the plan.
In an e-mail to the Cabot, Currier and Pforzheimer House open lists on Friday, council President Rohit Chopra ’04 criticized the College for moving too slowly to find a new dance space and for settling on a solution that will take away current student space.
“I had thought that the ‘students are dumb and we can trick them’ strategy died along with preregistration, but apparently not,” Chopra wrote to the three houses.
Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross wrote in an e-mail that he does not believe the changes represent much of a blow to athletic facilities in the “QRAC”— the Quadrangle Recreational Activities Center. He said he expects the QRAC to only lose one basketball court.
“We can continue our full intra-mural program at the Quad, as the two basketball courts are rarely in use at the same time,” Gross wrote in an e-mail. “I understand the strong reaction of some students, but I ask for their patience in the planning process. This represents a real opportunity for us.”
Gross has selected a committee to examine how the QRAC should be renovated to accommodate the dance program, according to a Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) press release.
The statement also announced that much of Hilles Library in the Quad will be converted to student space, at the expense of current library services and resources.
Dancers, who have kept a close watch over the search for space in the past year, said they are pleased to know they will have a home after the close of Rieman next year.
“We are confident that the QRAC is a viable solution and that upcoming dialogue with administrators can create a dynamic facility in which the Dance Program may thrive,” Adrienne M. Minster ’04, a dancer and an advocate for increased dance space, wrote in an e-mail.
“With the right resources, it seems like QRAC can be a comfortable space,” dancer Kimberly M. McCarthy ’04 said. “I’m excited that they have an actual space picked out and that no future dancers will suffer.”
Still, some dancers lamented the loss of Rieman and wondered whether the QRAC space would be an adequate substitute.
“I think it’s a shame because Rieman has improved so much as a technical space and now we will lose it,” said Brynn L. Jinnett ’05, director of the Harvard Ballet Company. “I would be concerned because we need very special floors for our pointe shoes.”
While some negotiations had taken place between Radcliffe and the College about extending the lease on Rieman, Chopra questioned whether the College tried hard enough to keep the space.
The conflicting interests of dancers and Quadlings has given rise to debate on House open e-mail lists about the plan.
The lack of student input seems to lie at the core of many students’ opposition.
Council members said they are particularly disappointed that students were not consulted in formulating the plan and that no Quad residents will be on the QRAC committee.
The committee is being chaired by Acting Associate Dean of the College Judith H. Kidd and includes Dance Director Elizabeth H. Bergmann, Pforzheimer House Co-Master M. Suzanne McCarthy, Office for the Arts Director of Programs Cathleen D. McCormick, and planning administrators.
The two students on the committee—Rebecca J. Alaly ’05 of Mather House and Anne T. Hilby ’05 of Eliot House—are dancers.
Bergmann said the committee will handle much of the renovation’s technical issues, such as soundproofing the studio and determining ceiling heights.
The renovations are expected to last 18 months once the committee makes its decisions, Bergmann said.
Gross responded to concerns about the lack of Quad representation by saying that he is willing to add a Quad resident to the committee.
“QRAC was the only place that was seen with enough space that didn’t totally wipe out another activity,” Bergmann said. “I think the administration really is concerned and putting their best foot forward to solve the problem, but it’s a hard solve.”
Gross also wrote in an e-mail that the QRAC was the only space available that met physical requirements for a dance space.
To offset the loss of space, Gross wrote that he will consider buying some new exercise equipment for the QRAC as well as a better maintenance system for the Quad House gyms.
—Staff writer Alexander J. Blenkinsopp can be reached at email@example.com.
—Staff writer Wendy D. Widman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.