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Buffalo City Ballet hopes to build East Side dance center

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Buffalo City Ballet is raising funds to construct a brand new dance center on the city's east side. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says the Buffalo organization has been providing professional ballet training to inner city children for nearly 45 years.  

"To really build a complex—that is vital to what you need to really build a strong ballet program,” said Marvin Askew, Executive Director of Buffalo City Ballet.  

Askew said creating a new dance space has been something he's been thinking about for several years.

Askew leases space at the Tri-Main Building, but a few months ago Neglia Ballet Artists moved in the same building. Askew wasn’t pleased and voiced concerns it would infringe on his business, so last month he announced a $125,000 fundraising campaign to build a new studio.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Marvin Askew, Executive Director of Buffalo City Ballet, teaching a past class in his Tri-Main studio.

“We want to make this complex a money-making complex so we are not relying totally on government funding,” Askew explained.

Askew tells WBFO they're eyeing a building site on Jefferson Avenue near Woodlawn. He initially needs about $50,000 to purchase the site and then would create a proposal to present to the city.

“It’s in range of seven different Buffalo Public schools and walking distance of each of those schools and it is right in the heart of the neighborhood. For us, it would really generate tons and tons of kids, you know, for us to work with,” Askew remarked.

Askew has already commissioned a design for the future dance studio. It would include a cafe, dance boutique, and even a black box theater.

“So that the kids have even more opportunity to perform, instead of performing twice of year—that idea—you want them performing at least once a month,” said Askew. 

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Marvin Askew, Executive Director of Buffalo City Ballet, points to many photos of past students.

Askew would like to help the city's east side become part of Buffalo's renaissance. He grew up in the projects and said offering inner city children ballet provides them with a safe haven in their community.

“You know there’s still that need for a place for a child to go to let that steam off. You know, something positive,” Askew replied.

Right now, Buffalo City Ballet is preparing for its annual Nutcracker December 17th and 18th. This year, ticket proceeds will support the future building. Askew said he’s hoping to break ground in 2018.

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