Arts & Theater

Art groups move into Sacramento’s new E. Claire Raley Studios

Sacramento Ballet at their new home: Clara Midtown

​Sacramento Ballet artistic director Ron Cunningham gives a tour of the dance company's new home: The E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts - the former Fremont School for Adults--was renamed Clara Midtown on April 6.
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​Sacramento Ballet artistic director Ron Cunningham gives a tour of the dance company's new home: The E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts - the former Fremont School for Adults--was renamed Clara Midtown on April 6.

The signs out front still say Fremont School for Adults, but those will soon recess into history. The E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts is now in the building. A grand opening block party is planned for April 9, said board member Erika Bjork.

The Sacramento Ballet opened its new doors to the public Saturday, March 12, offering introductory classes for children, a chance to meet the Nutcracker (Anthony Cannarella) and short performances by its pre-professional troupe as well as a sneak preview of its newest show, “Bach to Now and Beyond,” which opens Thursday, March 17, and runs through April 2.

“It’s a big change from our old building,” said instructor Becky Towery, as a tiny United Nations of a dozen 4- to 6-year-olds filed out of a happy, informal class that included wiggling on the floor like snakes. “We’re very excited about it.”

The Second Saturday event was rather chaotic, with the public unsure of where to enter, and the little available signage confusing (one bathroom on the second floor had its old “WOMEN” sign near the top of the door but the international symbol for men at eye level).

But the arts-loving public was invited to come see the new digs, and come they did: More than a hundred squeezed into Studio 1 to see the performances, and took the classes around the corner in Studio 2. Towery explained the regular children’s classes will be in studios on the first floor.

Said ballet co-artistic director Ron Cunningham: “I think it’s going to be a game-changer for us. The new space will allow us to expand to 500 students.” The ballet’s previous studio on K Street had a capacity of 350.

“As for the company, they’re ecstatic about it. The roof doesn’t leak,” he said, laughing. He expects the ballet will be totally moved in by May.

6Tenants as the E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts opens

The building is under the management of the nonprofit Studios for the Performing Arts Operating Co.

Megan Wygant, executive director of the Studios, says the building now has six tenants and is in discussion with a couple more. Besides the Sacramento Ballet, the Alliance Française has up its signs, and the Brazilian Center for Cultural Exchange was serving coffee and snacks and hosting a Second Saturday exhibit in the yellow building next to the main brick edifice. Also in the main building will be Capital Stage, McKeever School for Irish Dance and the Sacramento Preparatory Music Academy.

“The tenants for the final studio space and the cafe are not identified yet,” Wygant said. “We are looking for someone not only to feed the arts community but willing to support arts as well. It will have good visibility, near the front door of the building.”

The recently merged Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera looked at the space available in the building, but “it just didn’t pencil out for us,” said David Lindgren, board secretary and governance chair.

Wygant said other arts groups wanted to be a part of the Studios, and she has a waiting list. She noted that the largest single space in the building, the auditorium, would be available to rent to the Sacramento community at large – “we will rent to for-profit and nonprofit groups alike, though our pricing is scaled to offer the best deal to nonprofit performing arts organizations.”

The spacious area is awash with natural light, and has a small mezzanine that’s accessible from the second floor. The space, with temporary seating for 200, is intentionally being left “fairly undeveloped – no permanent stage, no permanent seats” for flexibility.

“We’re hoping there will be collaboration among the tenants, and other groups, for new arts projects, and the egalitarian concept of collaboration will unfold in the next few years,” Wygant said.

At least one instance of this collaboration already is underway: Brazilian Center director Saara Burga says the band for its Sunday tango night is from the Sacramento Preparatory Music Academy.

Although it’s been a struggle to find the funds to do all that Burga envisions for the new space, she’s very hopeful: “It’s good to be here in this amazing space.”

Bach to Now and Beyond

What: The Sacramento Ballet performs George Balanchine’s “Concerto Barocco” to “Double Violin Concerto” by Johann Sebastian Bach, “Blood Rush” by choreographer Ma Cong and a piece by Ashley Walton and Raphael Delgado.

When: Opens Thursday, March 17. Runs 7 p.m. Thursdays-Saturday; 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturdays through April 2 and 1 p.m. Sunday, March 20, and 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 30

Where: E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts, 2420 N St., Sacramento

Cost: $57

Information: 916-552-5800, wwww.sacballet.org

Dance studio grand opening

What: McKeever School of Irish Dance presents performances in its new studio space.

When: Noon-4 p.m. Saturday, March 19

Where: Studio 203, second floor, E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts, 2420 N St., Sacramento

Cost: Free

Information: www.mckeeverdance.com

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