Imagine a place where lavish balls and themed parties dominate a town's nightlife. A place where Tony Bennet tickles the ear drums and martinis are served by men in monkey suits. These images may not conjure up thoughts of Cortez - but Denise Westbrook thinks otherwise.
Her plans for a performing arts center in downtown Cortez are coming together quicker than expected. In fact, the Millennium Center for the Performing Arts now has a home at 20 W. Main - a few doors down from Westbrook's current business, Come Dance Tonight.
"This is not a bar," Westbrook explained. "This won't be a place people can just go to on any old night. We will focus on special events."
Westbrook, a former professional ballroom dancer and party planner, is looking at the big picture. She's looking at creating jobs, more artist opportunities, places for large local events and more tourists. Her main goal for the Millennium Center is to provide Cortez with outlets for arts and entertainment. She wants her venue to supply receptions, dances and fundraisers to local people. She also wants out-of-town thespians, musicians and artists to put Cortez on their touring lists.
"This is not just a dance studio (anymore)," Westbrook said. "It is so much more than that. But the school will support all my efforts in this project. That's why we need more space."
With the extra room, she will be able to create more class time. A problem that has already been lingering in her current location, 30 W. Main. This will be the third time Westbrook has had to move her business to accommodate her growing popularity. She is currently using the Millennium Center to host a few of her classes. Bouncing back and forth between the two locations is daunting. Getting all her classes under one roof is her focus.
"We should be here lock, stock and barrel by March 25," she said. "Of course we will still be in planning stages. It will take a year before we get to where we want to be."
From the outside looking in, one would not think this building could pack a house of 300 people. Stepping inside, reveals the hidden truth. The building space is divided into two sections with a combined 9,700 square footage. The ballroom location, the main space, is 6,700 square feet and will contain a stage of about 40 feet wide, 11 feet deep.
The balcony is currently being used for instructional use. That space is 3,000 square feet and consists of wooden floors and mirrors. Also unique to her venue, is a salon space above the main street windows. This little hideaway is a split sectioned room that will also operate as a classroom for private lessons and smaller groups.
One of the windows will function as the box office, the other - a decorative front with an electronic, light-infused scheduling board. Past the grand ballroom will be a lounge, a gourmet kitchen and tons of storage space for party supplies and rentals. She hopes to provide table cloths, tables, centerpieces, backdrops, fountains, and other various party needs to the public. However, she won't operate as a rental distributor. Rather, her items will be a package inclusion in the event it is needed.
The plans for her space are quite dramatic. Westbrook and her husband Richard have been making most of the repairs themselves. Support from the community has been tremendous, including the expected neighboring arts center for KSJD.
"I think KSJD and ourselves will try to collaborate as much as possible," Richard said. "It will be a spirited cooperation."
Westbrook is determined to have the exact space she's been dreaming about for two years. She is looking at hosting champagne brunches, conferences, providing service training for local businesses and gourmet cooking classes. Her ideas are endless.
To start, The Millennium Center is slated to be the venue where the annual Chamber Awards banquet will be held on Saturday, March 23. With Westbrook's previous interior decorating and party planning skills, she expects to help the Chamber put on a spectacular roaring twenties, speakeasy affair. This will be the first event the Millennium Center has scheduled. It won't be considered the grand opening, but Westbrook sees it as a chance to let other businesses know she's here to celebrate the community.
"I am not trying to compete with restaurants or rental places," she said. "I only want to create something entertaining and economically beneficial for the community."
Ongoing plans and remodeling will continue at the Millennium Center throughout the year. Soon, Come Dance Tonight will operate from the new location only. For information on classes call Westbrook at 564-9771.