The drums pounded while dancers scurried across the floor for the last time in Jane Weiner’s joyous final modern class at Hope Stone Studio, the Houston hub for adults and children and home of Hope Stone Dance Company.
On May 31, the decade-old studio closed its doors due to the two things that most affect midsize arts organizations: money and space. “We had our most successful year in terms of reaching kids, audience size, our recent gala and the quality of work, but it wasn’t enough to sustain us,” says Weiner, Hope Stone executive and artistic director. Despite the studio closing, its dance company will continue to perform.
Trouble surfaced when Hope Stone lost its lease in March 2013. After two extensions, Weiner was unable to secure a location that was workable with two studio spaces and parking. “We even considered buying a building, but you need an address to launch a capital campaign,” she says.
The fact that Weiner’s parents had just relocated to Houston complicated the situation. “I would be working from my mom’s hospital room, thinking I don’t know how much longer I can be doing this,” she says.
Weiner danced with Doug Elkins for a decade before moving to Houston to help her sister Susan Rafte through metastatic breast cancer. After co-founding the Pink Ribbons Project, Weiner set up shop on a tiny residential street near the popular River Oaks Shopping Center. With a morning technique class on most days, the studio quickly became the go-to place for the city’s professional dancers, the place for Houston Ballet dancers to earn their teaching chops and for children to experience dance for the first time. The studio was welcoming to regular people, too, with classes in Vbarre, yoga and Gyrokinesis.
But their kids’ program set the operation apart. Weiner’s evangelism for a full approach to arts education is well-known and part of her powerful solo dance Salt, where she states that the arts are necessary for human life. Some children were with her for their entire childhoods. “Whenever I feel like I have failed, I just look at these kids, one success story after another,” she says with pride.
Weiner will keep her nonprofit, Hope Stone, Inc., for another year, along with a few satellite classes that have been fully funded. “I want to work on a business plan for arts education, but not tomorrow,” she says. “It was a great 10 years. We had this wonderful thing, like a diamond. Now those diamonds are scattered all over Houston. I plan to do the three Rs: rest, rest and more rest. I am ready for my next chapter.” DT
Nancy Wozny writes about the arts from Houston, Texas.