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Mold in Conservatory causes problems for dancers and faculty

Jodi Page

Laura Karanevich

UMKC Conservatory dancers and faculty members are not optimistic about the condition of a key studio after returning in August to find it contaminated with mold.

“I remember the first day of class, we all grabbed the bars, and they were rusty in a weird way because of the dampness,” said sophomore Liat Roth.

Students immediately noticed the difference in the studio and the effects it was beginning to have on them.

“I remember I had a cold in August, I could feel it in my sinuses and I knew it wasn’t just me being sick. It was from the mold,” said sophomore Lienna Sherry. “I couldn’t breathe, and my throat felt very tight and itchy.”

UMKC Director of Media Relations, John Martellaro, acknowledged the circumstances the conservatory experienced earlier this semester but said the issue has been addressed.

“There is no ongoing mold issue in this room and the issue that occurred was isolated to that one room,” Martellaro said.

According to Martellaro, the complaints expressed by the Conservatory faculty and students were not reported to UMKC.

Acknowledging the wishes of those interviewed to protect their identity and job security, this article has been compiled from anonymous sources of faculty and students within the UMKC Conservatory.

“Once they alleviated those problems, it’s been fine ever since, but I cough when I go into the costume closet,” said a faculty member. “I’m allergic to mold, my eyes will close shut, its horrible. Once you have mold, it’s hard to get rid of.”

Reports of mold began three years ago when roof leakage caused Spencer Theatre and the second floor of the conservatory to flood. A faculty member reported that maintenance was able to remove the water, but not the overall moisture. The most affected room for dancers was the costume closet, located in Studio 108.

This studio is the same one experiencing issues this semester. Students were told the ventilation in studio 108 had been running in reverse since Aug. 1, drawing humidity into the building. The humidity caused mold damage to barres, benches and handmade costumes in the studio. Faculty had to throw away what couldn’t be repaired.

“We opened the closet and discovered mold on the costumes and pulled them out, discovered mold on the benches in 108 and moved those out,” said dance faculty Rose Water.

Maintenance made efforts to eradicate the mold by installing humidifiers, new vents and lowering the studio’s temperature to prevent growth.

Those interviewed expressed their concern about how these solutions were affecting those in the studio.

“I was not in favor of classes being held in that studio while the room was being treated,” said a faculty member. “The temperature of that studio was not conducive to proper learning and training for the dancers under those conditions.”

Some believe the lowered temperature was the cause of injuries occurring earlier in the season than usual.

The conservatory’s dress code rules in the handbook for the Dance Department include the elimination of “junk,” or excess clothes, at the start of class.

“Everyone was wondering why everyone was getting so injured so early on,” said a student. “Because it was freezing cold in the rooms, and we were expected to just be in no clothes warming up.”

Despite these complaints, students and faculty said they appreciated the actions taken by maintenance to fix the studio.

“My concerns are minor compared to the importance of making sure that the mold was treated,” said a faculty member.

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