On any given night, a stroll through Green Street Studios in Cambridge might put a visitor face to face with a young hip-hop enthusiast or an avocational ballerina or a troupe of highly skilled professional modern dancers preparing for an upcoming concert of original choreography. But not for much longer. On Wednesday, the dance nonprofit announced that it will be closing its doors. The last day of regular operations will be Oct. 27.
From its grass-roots founding in 1991 by Ruth Birnberg, Paula Josa Jones, Cheri Opperman, Marcus Schulkind, and Pam White, a creative collaborative spirit has guided Green Street Studios (GSS). With a common dream, a can-do attitude, and lots of elbow grease, the young artists slowly converted an empty shell on the second floor of 185 Green St. into three studios that have formed a hub of dance activity in Greater Boston. By providing an accessible, affordable venue for artistic creation, performances, and training, the organization has fostered a vibrant community of professional and amateur dancers, choreographers, and audiences. In addition to performances and residencies, Green Street Studios has hosted weekly instruction for all levels of experience in styles ranging from modern dance and jazz to flamenco and belly dance. According to GSS figures, the Central Square mainstay welcomes roughly 5,000 artists and community members each year.
A statement released by the Green Street board said the organization “is thriving both artistically and financially” following exponential growth after a 2016 restructuring. GSS leadership cites the catalyst for the decision to close as a nearly three-fold, unsustainable rent increase by the building’s new owner, reflecting burgeoning rental costs to artists throughout the Central Square Cultural Arts District — and beyond. Green Street Studios is not the only dance organization to fold or be displaced in recent years, nor is this the first time GSS has threatened closure due to rent increase. As it celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2013, the organization was looking into alternative spaces, with an eye to moving rather than closing, an option that does not seem probable this time around.
Stephen Ursprung, GSS’s acting chair of the board of directors, says the decision to close is the result of a long, complicated process. “We worked closely with several members of the Cambridge city government, but it was plain that there were no viable pathways forward other than closure,” he said.
Green Street’s closing will leave a gaping hole in the Boston area’s dance scene. “Each time the dance community loses a venue like this, the impact can be felt across the entire local dance ecosystem,” says Karen Krolak, co-founder and artistic director of the dance organization Monkeyhouse. “We have worked with Green Street, as well as Dance Complex and the Multicultural Arts Center in Cambridge this year, and I know that all of them have been struggling. My hope is that this will be a wake-up call to invest in and protect the remaining dance venues.”