Nashville Ballet’s Martin Center set for a long overdue expansion

elevate1The Nashville Ballet’s headquarters is about to get a much needed makeover.

On Thursday morning, the ballet announced the public launch of its capital campaign “Elevate,” which will help pay for a major expansion of the company’s Sylvan Heights neighborhood facility.

“We have run out of space,” says artistic director Paul Vasterling. “Our dance classes and community programs are now at maximum capacity, and we are regularly turning people away.”

Nashville Ballet, which is best known for the opulent Nashville Nutcracker that it stages every December at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, is one of the city’s busiest arts education centers, providing dance classes to hundreds of children and adults every year. Enrollment in these classes has more than doubled in recent years, prompting the company to explore a major expansion of its Martin Center for Nashville Ballet.

elevate2The project, which the ballet hopes to complete by next spring, will increase the size of the Martin Center from 31,000 square feet to 44,000 square feet. The expansion will add three new studios for a total of seven, allowing the center to increase its enrollment by 1,200 students and add new classes for children and adults. Earl Swensson and Associates is handling the design and planning of the project; RC Matthews will lead the construction and renovation.

Nashville Ballet purchased an adjoining building, which had been occupied by Climb Nashville, in 2012. This additional space will eventually house the new studios and allow the ballet to create an updated lobby, multiple conference rooms, expanded administrative space, additional offices and a control room for the facility’s black box theater.

The new space will also include an original art installation by local artist Carrie McGee. Her mixed media construction will use materials often associated with dancers, such as pieces from pointe shoes and fabric from leotards.

elevate3Once completed, the renovated facility will become part of an important arts campus that also includes Nashville Opera’s impressive Noah Liff Opera Center. Expanded classes and performances at these companies could help turn their Sylvan Park neighborhood into one of the city’s premier arts destinations.

Nashville Ballet has already raised $3.7 million of the $5.5 million needed to complete the project. The newly announced “Elevate” capital campaign is tasked with raising the balance. Arts lovers interested in contributing to the campaign can click here.

Thursday’s announcement comes on the heels – make that the toes – of a remarkable season that included the world premiere of a new dance set to a piano concerto by rock superstar (and Nashville resident) Ben Folds. The new expansion suggests that the ballet’s best is yet to come.

Photo Credits: Renderings courtesy of Earl Swensson Associates.

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About John Pitcher

John Pitcher is the chief classical music, jazz and dance critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He has been a classical music critic for the Washington Post, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, National Public Radio’s Performance Today (NPR), and the Nashville Scene. His writings about music and the arts have also appeared in Symphony Magazine, American Record Guide and Stagebill Magazine, among other publications. Pitcher earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied arts writing with Judith Crist and Phyllis Garland. His work has received the New York State Associated Press award for outstanding classical music criticism.


  1. Martha Ullman West says:

    Nice piece, congratulations Nashville Ballet.