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ART BEAT: Gwinnett Ballet Theatre moves to new state-of-the-art facility in Lawrenceville

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Special Photo Gwinnett Ballet Theatre will open its new 19,000 square-foot facility in Lawrenceville in the fall of this year.

Gwinnett Ballet Theatre will start the 2012-13 season in a new, state-of-the-art facility in Lawrenceville. The school and pre-professional company, Gwinnett's first nonprofit performing arts organization created in 1977, will be moving from its current studios in Snellville to a spacious, 19,000-square-foot home at 1800 MacLeod Drive, across Sugarloaf Parkway from Gwinnett Tech.

Five spacious studios, offices, a student study area, dressing areas with showers, a costume shop and large storage areas for sets and costumes will give GBT more room than ever in which to fulfill its mission of offering the highest quality dance education and performances to the community.

"We will now be in the center of Gwinnett County and therefore more accessible to an increased number of students and families," said Artistic Director Wade Walthall. "This new facility gives us more space to offer a wider and more comprehensive curriculum. It will be a quality facility for quality dance training."

The arts organization has been evaluating relocation for some time.

"GBT is well known for producing dancers of outstanding quality and for our Nutcracker production which families from all over Atlanta and North Georgia enjoy for three weekends each December," said Board Chairman Len Diprima. "We have outgrown our current space and want to be more centrally located within the county to attract more students. We will also be much closer to our home theater, the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center."

The organization also has new faces to go along with the new building. Walthall came to GBT in January with a very distinguished resume. He was joined this past month by new School Director Lee Olsen, who also has a background filled with successes in the dance world.

With the new building, GBT is now eager to fill the studios with new students. The organization plans to expand its current programming to include more classes, a conservatory program and educational events. The program will emphasize classical ballet as well as foster training in other forms of dance. The school also plans to expand outreach to the community through classes and opportunities for underserved groups of students and adults.

With these goals in mind, GBT will be conducting a special audition for new students and new members for its pre-professional ballet company. This audition will be held on Aug. 1 at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center from noon until 5 p.m. Auditioners will be divided into three age groups, and tuition scholarships will be available, particularly for young men. Auditions for ages 7 to 10 will be conducted at noon to 1 p.m. Ages 11 to 14 will audition from 1:30 to 3 p.m. and ages 15 to 18 will audition from 3:30 to 5 p.m. For more information about this audition, visit www.gwinnettballet.org or call 770-978-0188.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.