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Barr Foundation awards $500,000 grant to Dance Complex in Cambridge

The Dance Complex in Cambridge plans to use a $500,000 grant from the Barr Foundation for renovations to turn this storefront space, seen in August 2014, into a dance studio and event venue.Katherine Taylor for The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance

Cambridge’s Dance Complex just got a shot in the arm that should reverberate throughout the Greater Boston dance community. The Barr Foundation is awarding a $500,000 grant to the Central Square organization, to be used for operating support and continued renovations to turn a storefront space in its historic Odd Fellows Hall home into a professional, highly visible, and ADA-accessible dance studio and event venue. Interior work on the studio space is partly complete, and the Dance Complex hopes to unveil a new street-level facade by the end of the year.

Since its founding more than two decades ago, the Dance Complex has become a well-known center for dance and movement arts. According to Dance Complex board chair Mary McCarthy, 90 classes in 38 styles of movement serve roughly 1,200 weekly patrons, ranging from children to senior citizens, recreational movers to highly trained professional dancers.


McCarthy envisions a ripple effect as a result of the grant from the Barr Foundation, a private Boston foundation that focuses on arts and culture, climate, education, and global issues.

“All dancers in the area have some kind of relationship to the Dance Complex, have rehearsed here, taken a class, come to a performance,” McCarthy says. “It’s come to be a core of the dance community, so everyone has to feel like the wealth has been shared and given to the people with this gift. It’s a brave, bold investment.”

Dance Complex executive director Peter DiMuro is delighted by the news. “I still can’t quite believe it,” DiMuro says. “I stumble over the amount on my tongue, but this is game-changing for us and for dance in Boston. It shows a vote of confidence that there is work to be done here for the future of Boston dance.”

With seven part-time staff members, including DiMuro, and roughly 100 volunteers, the Dance Complex’s projected budget this fiscal year is $700,000. DiMuro says the grant money will help fund new part-time positions in communications and development. The organization also wants to retain an outside firm to help craft an overall business plan addressing everything from daily concerns to programming to long-range fund-raising for future renovations and sound containment.


McCarthy, who has been board chair since June 2014 and, she notes, a volunteer “cleaning toilets every Saturday morning” for the past 12 years, calls the grant “a dream come true.”

“What’s so gratifying is that it’s not like we reached out to them, hat in hand,” she says. “They took time to get to know the Dance Complex, came to our shows, looked at our books, almost like a courting process. That’s why this vote of confidence is so sweet. It says they believe in us. I was moved to tears. This is transformational for an organization like us.”

Karen Campbell can be reached at karencampbell4@rcn.com.