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First Look of Gwinnett Ballet Theatre's New Home

The new 20,000 square foot facility off of Sugarloaf Parkway will rival some of the best dance facilities in the southeast.

The walls are still unfinished, but this building is already filled with hope and joy.

The Gwinnett Ballet Theatre opened the doors to its new home in Lawrenceville last week to let the community see the company's vision for the future.

In June, to a 20,000-square-foot facility at 1800 MacLeod Avenue, right off of Sugarloaf Parkway. It features five studios and a long list of upgrades.

-- Do you think the move is a good one? And, what words of encouragement would you give to the young dancers? --

“The medium-sized studio is as large as our biggest studio in Snellville,” said GBT’s Holley Calmes proudly as she begins the tour.

Four excited young dancers come along wearing their leotards, dance shoes and hot pink hard hats. The girls in the group are giddy about the new facility. One of the features of they hope to have will be two baby grand pianos in the large studios. Right now, they practice using pre-recorded music.

“It’s a different kind of energy with live music,” said dancer Kendall Greene, 17, of Lawrenceville.

Another upgrade is the addition of locker rooms. At their current home in Snellville, the dancers only have two small bathrooms with toilets and sinks. At the Lawrenceville location, they will have showers, a row of sinks and changing rooms for both the male and female dancers so they can clean up after hours of rigorous rehearsals.

The young dancers spend a good deal of time at the studios. As soon as they get out of school, they head over to the GBT for practice and stay there until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. That’s why the new snack room is so important. It allows them more room to store, prepare and eat healthy meals.

Although they are dancers, the young men and women are students first. That’s why this group on the tour is excited about a room in the front of the building that is designated as the board room. However, the board only meets once a month, so the rest of the days it will be used as a study room for dancers.

“Before we either had to go in the lobby or hallway and you can’t focus,” said 17 year old Emma Duke of Norcross. Now they will have a quiet place to work and not have as many distractions.

Other features of the new building include a costume shop. Now parents who volunteer will have plenty of space as they clean, mend and refit the outfits worn by their children on stage. There will even be a washer and dryer there.

The building also includes a shop large enough for sets to be built in-house. In the past, students at helped build sets for shows such as “.” Now that the GBT will be located across the road from Gwinnett Tech, they hope to work with the school on other projects.

GBT’s Board Chairman Leonard Diprima hopes the new location brings new awareness of GBT to the community.

“Where we were in Snellville was kind of down in a hole. It wasn’t very visible,” Diprima said. He hopes people driving down Sugarloaf Parkway will see the signs and want to learn more about GBT, enroll their children, and support their programs.

Artistic Director Wade Wathall is eager to complete the construction and welcome the next group of young dancers.

“I’m just really taken with the whole thing,” said Wathall. “It’s turned out so great. It’s really been an undertaking. I’m glad to see it coming to fruition here.”

At the open house, supporters of GBT scribbled notes of well wishes onto the bare floors of the dance studios. They will stay there forever after the flooring is installed so dancers can leap and twirl over the words of encouragement.

GBT expects to finish construction and relocate to the Lawrenceville location this fall.

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