One year after breaking ground on a plot of land alongside Town Plaza Avenue in Nocatee, Kristina and Vaughn Robison celebrated the grand opening of Grace Conservatory’s new facility.
On Thursday, Aug. 3, the 5,896-square-foot studio was filled with excited young dancers who attended to see its many attributes. The new Grace Conservatory has 4,000 square feet of dance space, about three times what it had in its former location across the street.
It also has a dressing room with a couch and other amenities, a teachers’ lounge with a full kitchen and two storage areas solid enough to serve as tornado shelters if needed. The HVAC system is designed to sense CO2 levels, so that if dancers are working really hard, it supplies more oxygen.
In addition, the facility has a large retail space that sells tap, ballet and jazz shoes, leotards and food and drink.
Perhaps the most notable feature is the construction of the dance floors. Sunken 4 inches into the concrete base, they have three interlocking layers of 1-by-4s made of hard wood over a layer of foam and topped by a layer of plywood over which has been laid a professional Marley floor, heat-welded to eliminate seams.
This is the same flooring found in the American Ballet Theatre and other major dance performance companies throughout the country. And it serves a very important purpose.
“Dancing — especially when you’re jumping — has 10 times the impact of running on your knees, ankles, feet, joints,” said Vaughn Robison. “And running has 10 times the impact of walking. So, when you’re jumping, you’re putting the equivalent of 20 times your body weight on your knees and ankles and joints.”
Grace Conservatory offers classes in tap, ballet, jazz, contemporary and hip hop dance styles.
“We’ve expanded our ballet pre-professional program with the addition of Florian Rouiller, who came to us by way of the Florida Ballet, but he’s danced on five continents,” said Vaughn Robison.
Rouiller, a native of Geneva, Switzerland, trained in Germany at the famed John Cranko School. He will lead the conservatory’s ballet program.
“I danced in New York City, Chicago, Washington, Venezuela, Sweden, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and now I’m here,” he said. “I’m excited to take up this role to make the students shine.”
He said the Jacksonville area needed a conservatory like this.
“To have a space like this with the right equipment, the right floor for the dancers, it’s very exciting,” he said. “You don’t see that everywhere.”
The school has a staff of 18, all certified in CPR and AED. It also has a $4,000 defibrillator, something that was not required but that the owners wanted.
The new conservatory has already filled more than 1,300 class positions (any student may account for multiple class spots). That’s up from 800 at its former location, where there was a significant wait list. But there are still spaces open in some of the classes.
In addition, the Robisons have launched a new Mommy and Me class, which accepts children ages 6 months to 2 years old. Between 2 and 18, dancers are enrolled in regular classes.
The Robisons opened Grace Conservatory at its original location in 2016. Kristina Robison is a graduate of the dance conservatory at Texas Women’s University. She taught in San Antonio and later danced professionally in New York City and Europe.
The new facility is located at 445 Town Plaza Ave., Ponte Vedra.
The building was constructed by Jacob Sameck of Tenant Contractors. On Aug. 26, the Robisons plan to dedicate the building in memory of Sameck’s daughter, Harley Jo, who was lost at 14 weeks.
To learn more about Grace Conservatory, go to graceconservatory.com or call 904-900-0909.