Durham County

At Living Arts, putting Durham dancers’ feet first

Aubrey Griffith-Zill, founder of Living Arts Collective, demonstrates the venue’s new ‘sprung floor’ used for dance and other movement arts.
Aubrey Griffith-Zill, founder of Living Arts Collective, demonstrates the venue’s new ‘sprung floor’ used for dance and other movement arts. The Herald-Sun

At Living Arts Collective, dancers and movement artists can perform and teach classes with a little less wear and impact on their joints.

Aubrey Griffith-Zill, a dancer and the founder of the space on Geer Street, demonstrates the difference between the building’s concrete floor and its new “sprung floor.”

Unlike concrete and other surfaces, a sprung floor has more cushion and give because it is built with plywood, foam and air space.

“It’s primarily for the dancers, to ensure the longevity of their careers,” Griffith-Zill said. “I teach here all week. Teaching on concrete all day ... whoa. I already feel such a difference.”

The building has a sprung dance floor on its main level, and one in a smaller basement space. To help pay for the floors and other improvements, Living Arts has started an Indiegogo campaign to raise money. The fundraising site sets a $25,000 goal, but also outlines what the collective can do if it reaches different fundraising goals.

Raising $15,000 will allow the space to help pay for the new dance floor, risers for audiences, and a drinking fountain to keep dancers hydrated. Raising $25,000 will allow the business to install mirrors for dancers, speakers and other improvements.

If Living Arts Collective can raise $35,000, it will own the sprung floor. Living Arts is located in the Trotter Building, whose owner, Bob Chapman, paid for half of the floor’s cost, according to the fundraiser site.

Griffith-Zill grew up in Durham and started Living Arts Collective about a year ago for artists to perform, practice, give workshops and performances at an affordable rent rate. To help keep that model going, Living Arts also rents the space for weddings and events. The Indiegogo campaign also will help ensure the business remains viable for the long term, she said.

By giving artists more affordable space, Griffith-Zill is following in the footsteps of other local arts organizations. Dan Ellison operates the Durham Arts Place on Chapel Hill Street, which rents space to various artists at below-market rates. The Carrack Modern Art, a nonprofit, operates a zero-commission gallery that lets visual artists keep all the money from sales at their shows.

“When I started this space, what I wanted was for many artists to have a place to call home ... so they can flourish and grow their brand,” she said. “We are helping art find a home in Durham,” with a variety of workshops and performances, Griffith-Zill said.

Artists who have taught or been affiliated with Living Arts are percussionist Atiba Rorie (who, in the fundraiser video praises the space for supporting “all of my whacky ideas”), the Durham Independent Dance Artists organization, the Raleigh Rockers dance troupe, Susan Sgorbati (who teaches workshops in “emergent improv”), Teli and Aya Shabu of The Magic of African Rhythm, and others. The space also has classes in yoga, as well as diverse dance styles such as Brazilian Zouk and Argentine Tango.

Griffith-Zill foresees more collaborations with arts groups and organizations. “We are here to support one another,” she said. “It’s about community.”

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