Published: 13:45, 25 June 2021
| Updated: 11:35, 29 June 2021
The construction of a world-class dance studio has reached an important step, as the company behind it celebrates its topping out.
Jasmin Vardimon Company's state-of-the-art Creative Laboratory is currently being built in Javelin Way on Ashford's Henwood Industrial Estate.
With work having begun on the Kent County Council-led scheme in January, the building's structural skeleton is now complete.
It has also been revealed that the centre is set to open in Spring 2022, allowing the dance troupe to move out of its temporary home in the Ashford Designer Outlet.
Once finished, the Creative Laboratory will act as a hub for the Jasmin Vardimon Company's exploits which include nationally and internationally touring productions.
The building will include space for the creation of the company’s touring productions and rehearsals, dedicated studios to accommodate the rapid growth of the company’s acclaimed educational programmes and community classes, plus incubator space for small creative businesses.
The primary dance studio - a 19m by 22m space which will feature a fully sprung dance floor and full lighting, sound and AV rig - is going to be available for public hire once opened.
A new café and meeting rooms will also be available for community use.
Suzie Leighton, chair of the board of directors at Jasmin Vardimon Company, said: “We are tremendously excited about the opportunity that this building offers to centre ourselves as a key resource for the community.
"Culture and creativity are proven to play an important role in the development of good physical and mental health, and culture-led regeneration is a crucial part of rebuilding vibrant and well used spaces within our towns and cities.
"As we emerge from lockdown, the company is really looking forward to collaborating with local people and businesses to tackle some of the issues within Kent and Ashford that Covid has made even more acute.”
The topping out ceremony, held on June 3, was a major milestone for the construction progress and has ramped up anticipation for it completion.
Peter Heslip, director of visual arts at Arts Council England, said: "It's fantastic to see Jasmin Vardimon Dance Company's new space take shape.
"This project, supported by a significant investment of National Lottery funding through Arts Council England, will bring amazing new state-of-the-art facilities to Ashford for the whole community to enjoy when it opens next year.
"The new rehearsal and studio space will mean young and old can discover the joy of dancing. Jasmin's innovative dance theatre is internationally-renowned, and I can't wait to see what they do in their new home."
A large part of the construction cost will also be offset by Kent County Council-owned light industrial units being built nearby, which are hoped to form a creative quarter.
Renowned choreographer Jasmin Vardimon moved her headquarters to Ashford's Stour Centre in 2012, before transferring to the company's temporary Outlet home in January 2020 where it has since held free public performances.
However the concept of this Creative Laboratory has been in the pipeline for a long time.
The facility is part of Ashford Borough Council's 'Big 8' strategy - eight key projects that are aimed at boosting the area's commerce, culture and infrastructure.
The Jasmin Vardimon hub is the last of these to be delivered, with other Big 8 projects like the Outlet extension, Junction 10A and Elwick Place having already been completed since the strategy's introduction in October 2013.
Speaking about the Creative Laboratory, Ashford Borough Council leader Gerry Clarkson said: "The Jasmin Vardimon Company is one of Britain’s flagship international dance and theatre companies, and we are delighted they chose Ashford as the location for their dance studio.
"This creative hub will play its part in adding to the borough’s rich tapestry of heritage, culture and artistry.
"By providing more space for the Jasmin Vardimon Company, they can expand their international offer and they will be able to share their inspiring work with local audiences.
"We look forward to them being able to showcase their art of dance and choreography here in the heart of Ashford and ensure the local community can see and take part in their inspiring work.”