Fitness/dance building approved by Trustees

The Santa Monica College Board of Trustees voted unanimously in favor of approving a $3.5 million contract this month to create a new physical education/fitness/dance and central plant building.

The new facility will replace the existing PE locker room building, which currently stands between the track and the pavilion. The contract was awarded to Gensler, an international architectural design firm that has an office in Santa Monica. Gensler is responsible for the new Ritz Carlton building in downtown Los Angeles, as well as many other cutting-edge architectural projects.

Judith Douglas, chair of the dance program at SMC, as well as a many of her students, showed up to the meeting in support of the proposed new PE building.

According to Douglas, the dance program at SMC is drastically in need of new facilities in order to properly serve the approximately 1,500 dance students at SMC. "When I first started teaching here in 1974, the president of the college at that time wanted to create a dance program with a dance major," she said. "He created a temporary facility for us. Two converted classrooms: gym 102, and gym 104."

Douglas says the dance program has been operating for 36 years in improvised classrooms. "They have never been real, true dance studios, just really classrooms with faulty floors and poor ventilation that were always intended merely as a temporary place to house the dancers," she said.

Anna Kakela is one of the dance students who joined Douglas at the meeting in a show of support. Originally intent on majoring in film, Kakela first took a dance class simply to pursue a personal passion. Shortly thereafter she began to consider switching to a double dance/film major.

Coming from Finland, she was slightly hesitant at first over the exorbitant cost of an international education, but after joining the SMC dance program, Kakela says that every penny is well spent. "I saved my money for 10 years to be able to come here and study, but the dance department has been worth ever cent of the money," she said.

According to Kakela, it's not just her dancing that has improved as a result of the classes but also her overall studies. "It's such a great foundation, self-confidence, respect for others and the pure joy that you get out of dance, that's why I love it," she said.

Kakela realizes that she will probably never attend class in the new facilities, however she is happy to lend her support to the program that she has been able to take so much from. "The dance department has exceeded my expectations in every way and this new facility will only help to continue to propel the dance program forward," said Kakela.


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