Orlando Ballet, formerly Southern Ballet Theatre, has a unique home! For years the dancers had to work in rented quarters that were often cramped, sometimes dirty, and never air conditioned. Then, in 1992, their dreams came true when they moved into the beautiful quarters the Company now shares with Orlando Opera. The roomy, air-conditioned building they now enjoy was not always beautiful, however. It began life as a power plant for the Orlando Utilities Commission!
When the power company needed more space, the original building stood abandoned for years, falling into ruin. It took vision to see its possibilities! A series of photos hangs along the hallway outside the huge rehearsal room the two companies share. They show the progress of the old power plant's renovation from filthy, roofless wreck to stately performing arts center.
To keep the building's history alive, the architects left plenty of reminders of its past. The original red brick and rough concrete walls were kept, some of which have strange hollows in them where machines were once built in. One of these, known as "The Niche," is a favorite spot for picture-taking. It's even on the cover of the school brochure!
Another souvenir of power plant days is "The Pump," a huge water pump prettied up with blue paint. It holds a place of honor in the lobby between the ballet and opera companies.
One other feature few ballet studios can offer is the entertainment of trains rumbling past just inches from the studios' rear windows! During any class the floor may quake beneath the dancers as an Amtrak train speeds by.
The Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts was named to honor the million-dollar gift from the Dr. Phillips Foundation that started the project on its way to reality. Dr. Phillips was a successful early citrus grower in the Central Florida area. He believed in the importance of education and the arts, and the many places around Orlando named for him pay tribute to his generosity.