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The proposed front view of the renovated Kiernan Center.

One of the key elements of the $11.5 million renovation project at Niagara University’s Kiernan Center is improving and expanding the dance studio space that is often used by the department of theatre and fine arts.

The theatre program will use the dance studios for tap, jazz, ballet, modern, and Broadway dancing, according to Terri Filips Vaughan, department chair. In addition, the studio houses choreography, aerial, and some stage combat work, as well as extra rehearsal space for the eight productions NU Theatre produces each academic year.

“This space has been in need of not only a renovation, but additional space for many years,” said Derek Puff, director of Recreation, Intramural, and Club Sports. “Prior to the expansion, we had only one dance studio and multi-use space available for use by our students. This is a shared space between campus recreation and the theatre program, as well as several other groups on campus throughout the year. With the expansion, we will now have two dance studios that will provide our students, professors, group exercise instructors, and (others) with more usable, state-of-the-art space.”

The two new studios more than double the size of the previous space while providing improved accessibility for people within Kiernan. Each studio will have specific flooring appropriate for designated activities, and a higher ceiling with fixtures to accommodate the aerial work. The technology within the studios will also be upgraded. In addition, users of the studios will have more convenient access to locker rooms to change.

Once the studios are open, the theatre department will receive primary use from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. However, students can enjoy recreational use of the studios in those off hours. The studios are also expected to be used for rehearsals, group exercises, large meetings, staff training sessions, and as a hub for summer camps beginning in 2023. Puff also expects to identify more opportunities for usage once Kiernan reopens.

“In addition to how much nicer these spaces will be in terms of aesthetics and function, we will also have much more flexibility with scheduling due to the additional space,” he said. “During the day, these spaces will be primarily used for theatre classes. Being able to move (those) classes out of our gymnasium and into an actual studio will provide a more appropriate and private space. It allows us to then use our gyms for activities that are more appropriate for those spaces.”

The new dance studios are expected to be completed and usable for the theatre department and group exercises this fall. Non-theatre students and organizations can also use the studios through advanced reservations booked with Puff.

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