Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture has completed the new Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center – a community resource that celebrates dance education in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.
Located in a former industrial building, JPDA developed a series of dramatic architectural interventions that transform the exterior and create bright, airy and playful dance studios, offices, a library, and dressing rooms for the bustling families that arrive each day.
Formerly Principal Dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dwana Smallwood later served as Director at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa. After deciding to come back to her home neighborhood to teach dance, the project benefited from Oprah’s direct support to spur the growth of the organization in developing a school and resource center for the community.
“My intention was to use my professional dancing experiences to come back to where I grew up and not only teach dance, but the confidence, love, creativity, and self-esteem that comes with learning dance,” recounts Dwana.
Jordan Parnass and his practice developed early in the design process a series of figure studies using photography and dance notation to inspire a direct abstraction of movement and the flow of architectural space.
The entrance is announced by a suspended canopy, via glass doors flanked by 3-d sculpted concrete panels and a marquee that establish the abstract vocabulary of rippling energy and movement.
The stairwell and second floor reception are clad in dimensional CNC-milled lacquered panels that conceal storage, signage and lighting. The circular ripple motif carries through to a colorful and warm library that provides comfortable seating and a social gathering space.
Open, bright studios with sprung floors and glowing skylights are the focus for dancers. The two studios are flexibly divided and can open up to one large dance stage with blackout curtains at performance time.