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Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center

Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture

Shared By

Chelsea Blahut

Project Name

Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center

Project Status



3,920 sq. feet


Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center


  • Jordan Parnass, Mitila Poojari, Lucie Tomastikova, John Baker, Philip M. Weller, Dimitri Kim, Carlos Gastelum, Chris Nelson


  • EP Engineering
  • Structural Engineer: A Degree of Freedom
  • General Contractor: Supreme General Contracting


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Project Description


The Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center is a community resource that promotes and celebrates dance education in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Located in a former industrial building, Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture developed a series of dramatic interventions that transform the exterior and create bright and airy dance studios, offices, a library, and dressing rooms for the students. Formerly Principal Dancer with Alvin Ailey, Dwana Smallwood later served as Director of Student Affairs at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa. After deciding to return to her home neighborhood to teach dance, the project benefited from Oprah’s direct support to spur the growth of the organization in developing a school and cultural asset for the community. Early in the design process JPDA developed a series of figure studies using photography and dance notation to inspire a direct abstraction of movement and the flow of architectural space. The entrance is announced by a suspended canopy, via glass doors flanked by 3-d sculpted concrete panels and a marquee that establish the abstract vocabulary of rippling energy and movement. The stairwell and reception area are clad in dimensional CNC-milled panels that integrate storage, signage and lighting. The circular ripple motif carries through to a colorful and warm library that provides comfortable seating and a social gathering space. Open, flexible studios with sprung floors and natural daylight are the focus for dancers. The studios can open up to one large stage with blackout curtains for performances.
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