Sarasota Contemporary Dance is ready to welcome not only company members but the community at large to its new studio space.
Leymis Bolaños Wilmott’s prayers have been answered.
The artistic director and co-founder of Sarasota Contemporary Dance recently found a prayer journal from many years ago in which she had written her goals: get her bachelor’s degree, start a dance company, get her master’s degree and open a movement center.
Check, check, check and almost there.
On Feb. 21, the company will have its first rehearsal in its new 1,500-square-foot studio in the Rosemary District.
“For me and the dancers, it’s about having a place to call home,” Bolaños Wilmott says. “Having that kind of stability and a family unit is so important to us.”
Bolaños Wilmott first heard about plans to build an arts community in the Rosemary District three years ago when speaking to Shanel Lembo, the mother of her son’s first friend at New College Child Center. She and SCD board members Muriel Gordon Mayers and Shane A. Chalke met with developer Mark Kauffman and continued to entertain the idea, she says, long before it was financially feasible for the company.
When she found out that the space at 1400 Boulevard of the Arts was available, Bolaños Wilmott started regularly visiting the plot of land. At the time she was reading the book “The Circle Maker,” which is about praying around your dreams and your greatest fears.
“That’s what I started doing, I would come here and start walking around the space, and I was like, ‘God, if this is where I’m supposed to be …’”
When the company started in 2006 under the name of Fuzión Dance Artists, the dancers rehearsed at Booker High School. The next year, they moved to Deborah Vinton School of Ballet. And for the past nine years, SCD rehearsed at New College of Florida’s fitness center.
The space at New College doesn’t have a sprung floor, which Bolaños Wilmott says was a top priority for the new studio. Now her dancers will have a state-of-the-art sprung, vinyl-topped floor that is not only easier to dance on, but better for their joint health.
Rachael Inman, co-founder of the company, says SCD dancers have stayed with the company despite challenges like the shared, less-equipped studio because of their commitment to Bolaños Wilmott.
“Her vision that she casts is contagious and her passion is contagious, and that’s why they show up,” Inman says. “It’s a family.”
Bolaños Wilmott plans to maintain this sense of intimacy among not only the company but the public by making the space community-oriented. From child and adult classes to an art wall with rotating works by local artists, she has many ideas to make the studio an imaginative space for the community.
“I also love that this was the first black community (in Sarasota),” Bolaños Wilmott says of the Rosemary District location. “To me, there’s also a sense of responsibility with that, to be aware of the history … we’re not just this art organization that is going to be exclusive, we really want to be inclusive.”
She says the company will first serve the local African-American community by hosting Youth Artists Network’s Festival of Dance from the African Diaspora Feb. 24-25. The collaboration is the first of many Bolaños Wilmott hopes to host in the new space, which she purposefully made large enough to fit musicians and other artists beside the dancers.
The studio is the heart of the new space, so Bolaños Wilmott says she wasn’t worried about having more than a small reception area in terms of office space.
“My office should really be the studio,” she says. “And my team is very collaborative. We can sit side by side, and it’s OK.”
The space also features a backstage-type changing area for dancers, a long communal table for everyday use and board meetings and a terrace with a view of downtown.
Bolaños Wilmott says the company has funding for its first year in the space, but is still looking for an “angel or angels” to become a namesake donor and make the home complete with funds for its 10-year lease.
As for what’s in her prayers moving forward, Bolaños Wilmott says she hopes to make every guest to the space feel at home.
“I don’t want to just be another dance studio,” Bolaños Wilmott says. “I want to be a home for contemporary dance and a place for nurturing creativity.”