Dance company enjoying relocation to Coke building

       The Ormao Dance Company, which started in Colorado Springs 22 years ago, has moved to the near Westside.

Tiffany Tinsley-Weeks of the Ormao Dance Company is shown in a studio photo. Recently moved to the Westside, Ormao offers a professional company, dance training and a program for schools.
Alberto Leopizzi photo – courtesy of Ormao Dance Company

       The location is 10 S. Spruce St., at the east end of the renovated building that was once the Coca-Cola production facility off Pikes Peak Avenue.
       Jan Johnson, Ormao founder and executive director, said the nonprofit modern-dance center - which features a professional company, dance training for all ages and an educational program called Mathtastic - “was just bursting at the seams” at its four-year previous location (shared space in the Counterpoint facility near downtown). “We had just one studio and we really couldn't grow,” she said.

The four-member Mathtastic group from the Ormao Dance Company find a unique way to divide a square into eight parts as part of their movement-related educational program for schools. The foursome are (purple) Sara Murdaugh, (turquoise) Katelin McGrath, (light green) Jessi Djonbalaj and (Navy blue) John McLaughlin.
Allison Daniell photo – courtesy of Ormao Dance Company

       The Spruce Street site, where Ormao has been since June, “has been awesome for us,” Johnson said. It has two large studios, plus an office, a waiting/gathering area and a hallway with walls that allow art exhibits.
       The new location/layout didn't come without effort. The Ormao goals had been to secure an affordable place in the downtown or Westside with good parking, a safe neighborhood and sufficient space. After a period of fruitless searching, Johnson found the Coca-Cola building, but at the time the unit at 10 S. Spruce had no interior walls and no connected utilities.
       She thanked Westside contractor Chuck Murphy, who had initiated a $700,000 redevelopment of the building in 2009-10, for his support and flexibility in the unit's remodel. Murphy crews accomplished the more technical tasks but (in the interest of Ormao's tight budget) allowed its volunteers to take on much of the finish work, including building walls and painting them. “We had 70 volunteers help us over three months,” Johnson said.
       Also aiding in the space preparation, she said, was Floorz, a commercial flooring company that's been a Coke building tenant since 2010.

Oksana Kuzma, a Coronado High School sophomore, has been taking classes with the Ormao Dance Company for the past eight years.
Jessi Djonbalaj photo - courtesy of Ormao Dance Company

       The only concern about the site (where Spruce dead-ends at I-25) was the area being a little run-down, with transients occasionally in their midst, but the thinking of Johnson and her board of directors was: “Let's change the neighborhood around,” she said. “We feel we can have a positive impact.”
       Ormao is open daily, with most of the afternoons and evenings filled with classes or company rehearsals. The busiest times are weekdays between 3:30 and 8 p.m. - Johnson calls these the “golden hours” - after kids get out of school and can take varying classes in modern dance, jazz dance or ballet.
       Ormao's professional dance company performs every spring and fall. This year's show, which is still in the early choreography stages, is scheduled April 13-15 at the Fine Arts Center.
       Another element of Ormao is its four-member Mathtastics company. Going to elementary schools in the area, the group presents a variety of movements and objects (including boxes, pipes and elastic) to reinforce concepts about geometry, shapes and patterns that are taught in the curricula for grades 3-5.
       Johnson moved to this area from Madison, Wis., in 1985. She'd minored in dance in college (her major was commercial interior design) and eventually worked up the courage to start Ormao (a Greek word, meaning “movement with force”) in 1990. Her enthusiasm remains high - she sees the Spruce Street studio as a focal point someday for visual art and music as well as dance - although she still must work part-time in the subject she'd majored in. “So it's about a 70-hour week,” she smiled.
       A long-time Ormao student is Oksana Kuzma of Coronado High. Now in 10th grade, she has been an Ormao student for eight years. She's enjoyed the experience, describing the atmosphere as one that's “non-judgmental” with a “sense of community and team effort,” and she now hopes to go to college with a major in modern dance. “They have such a variety of levels,” she said, recalling her progression over the years. “When you feel comfortable at one level, there's another you can go to.”

Westside Pioneer article