I enter an open door off of First Avenue NE, one block away from Greenlake, into a grey-blue space filled with buckets, brooms, and other home improvement supplies. Marlo Ariz (Martin) is hard at work but stops to show me around. The duplex building is somewhat of a maze, with tools and paint cans lying everywhere, but all chaos subsides when she shows me the upstairs studio. Refinished hardwood floors brightened by wall-to-wall windows leaves me in awe. I’ve only been there for five minutes and the simple, beautiful space welcomes me with open arms. “These floors were covered in black when we first got here, and fluorescent green walls,” Ariz explains.
This is theNEST—a new space branching (no pun intended) off of eXit SPACE, the local dance studio opened by Ariz in 2005 in the Greenlake neighborhood. From eXit SPACE it is just a short walk to this new location. Built in 1953, theNEST’s walls formerly housed a fitness studio; the opportunity to lease the space came about when the previous tenant retired, leaving two beautiful studios and a small wing of office space open for rent.
The news came to Ariz through an eXit student. “It brought me to a crossroads for eXit SPACE—I could think about streamlining our programming within the three studios we have… or I could think about expanding, which three years ago I swore I would never do…It means a lot to my home life if I expand. I had to weigh my options, personally,” says Ariz, recently married and with two young children. We’re chatting upstairs in the designated office space, and she leans on one of the large, white counters. “It’s a lot of time and money… but then I saw the space.”
Anyone who walks in, she muses, will feel the inviting aura. “Whether it’s contractors or dancers, people come in and they go, ‘Ah, it’s nice in here’…it’s inspiring, isn’t it?” She smiles. As Ariz dives further into explaining what theNEST will be, she lists the staff’s hopes for what the space could be used for. Some eXit classes will be housed here, but her intention is not to use it for classes exclusively. “The purpose of theNEST is not to duplicate eXit SPACE in another building…what we really want is artists here—teachers, choreographers, workshops—and not just limited to dance, but wellness and body workers, photography, visual arts,” she said. The opportunity for freelance teachers to take advantage of a space without being tied down to any particular studio is one priority she has in mind.
Alex Goldstein will run her own body work business downstairs from the office. An active member, student, and staff of the eXit SPACE community for 10 years, she will support the dance community with Soma Neuromuscular Integration (a form of structural integration with origins in Rolfing). A dancer herself, Goldstein has a passion for helping people “maintain longevity in movement.” Giving workshops will be a vibrant part of Goldstein’s involvement at theNEST, and she is excited about the supportive nature of the space. “One of the things I see in Marlo is a drive to give back to the community and to provide support for artists,” Goldstein says.
Despite her initial reluctance to embark on this journey, Ariz glows as she talks about the meaning of the name NEST. “I wanted it to feel like a place that could collect…” she says, cupping her hands speckled with dry paint, “…and support. Thinking about the structure of a nest, and the good feeling you get from it—it’s a safe, good place, but it can be any shape and hold so many different things.”
And hold many things it will. Apart from providing the community and freelance artists space to work and grow, theNEST will provide full residencies for four companies in the area: Amy Johnson Dance, Coriolis Dance, Angelica DeLashmette, and Entropy. It’s looking to be an exciting new chapter, and Ariz says her faculty is all on board for the process. “I enjoy the process of building. It’s so much work, but it’s so worth it. And what it can provide for so many people is exciting. We were hitting our walls at eXit SPACE as far as space and what we can do.” Ariz excitedly explains how this will expose a new neighborhood to artists, and how thankful she is that it isn’t being turned into a retail space. “Those studios would just be sitting there”, she says, disappointment shading her face.
Ariz compares her plan for theNEST to her method of choreographing a dance. “I don’t have a definite path it needs to take, I’m not going to force it in a certain direction, I just know where we’re gonna start.”
As more and more dancers relocate to Seattle from around the country, the fact that new spaces like theNEST are showing up is an optimistic sign that the community is expanding to support the demand for space. Dance real estate is getting harder to come by, but theNEST is just one example of how the Seattle dance community cannot be overpopulated—it can only grow bigger and stronger. With multiple hubs opening in all corners of Seattle, we can be sure that the city’s creative minds will not be lacking in the supportive resources it takes to express their work.
theNEST is holding an open house on September 10, 2016, 6–9pm. Find more information on the event here.