Art is as important to human vitality as air, according to Anne Lauritzen, associate director of the Springs Academy of Dance.

"For me, art is the joy of life. There are essentials to life. There's food, water, shelter and clothing, but art is the reason that those things are essential," she said. "I think without art, life lacks meaning."

Lauritzen, who opened the academy at 4705 Centennial Blvd. with her husband in 2009, believes dance is a highly effective way for people to practice self-improvement.

"I think performing gives you an opportunity to do things like develop a vision, work in a community, set and accomplish goals," she said. "All of those skills that our performers get to practice when they're staging a show, they can take that skill set and apply it to how they're operating in their families and their academic pursuits and their professional pursuits."

Dance schools and studios dot the city, each one using another form of art to operate: music. When people are hoping to watch a musician play or be the ones onstage, the Stargazers Theatre and Events Center at 10 S. Parkside Drive is open for business.

Cindy Hooton, the theater's co-owner, said the venue gives locals the chance to familiarize themselves with musicians and other crafty folks from near and far.

"For our community artists, an important focus for us since the beginning of Stargazers is to spotlight the amazing amount of high quality talent that we have right here in Colorado Springs and along the Front Range," she said. "And we do that by joining that talent with touring international or national talent whenever possible."

The theater, originally constructed as a state-of-the-art movie theater in 1969, hosts more than 150 events annually, from concerts and fundraisers to art galleries and political forums. Hooton said Stargazers has hosted more than 1,300 events since she and her husband purchased and reopened the building in 2009.

Since then, Hooton said, she has witnessed residents of the Springs grow closer because of the venue.

"It is so amazing to see the artists meet and talk and exchange experiences and come away with inspiration and new ideas," she said. "The touring artist has an evening with a bigger crowd because of the influence of our community artists and our community artists win new, local fans that may not have had the chance to get to know them previously."

Dance, specifically at the Springs Academy of Dance, has greatly influenced the area as well, according to Lauritzen.

"Something that I've learned that is really key to being physically fit and active is to be doing something that you enjoy," she said. "I think one of the things that gives me a lot of pride is that we're providing people an opportunity to use their bodies and to be active and healthy with their bodies in a way that is really fun and really engaging."

She and Hooton share a similar view on the importance of art. Hooton acknowledged that she is not alone in her quest to improve life in the Springs through art.

"The basic traits of a successful city are strong businesses, affordable housing, recreational opportunities and a strong arts community. We have lived in Colorado Springs for many years and it is so exciting to see our arts scene exploding," she said. "We are thrilled to be in the company of so many others that work for the promotion of the arts every day. Art is that wonderful frosting on the cake of life!"



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