MERIDEN — An arts venue combining dance, music and dinner is busy preparing for its opening in former retail space at the Meriden Mall.
Daniel Grant, co-owner of the new 78 Dinner Theater, said COVID-19 has contributed to a few setbacks with construction but he is hoping to get things moving along within the next week.
“We are overly cautious about somebody testing positive and having to quarantine,” he said. “Unfortunately, our general contractor was one and then when he came back, the framer tested positive so that set us back a couple weeks.”
Grant said he will most likely open the business in phases, with the restaurant, bar and lounge opening in the spring and the theater opening by the end of May.
The restaurant and lounge side will include a small stage for comedy and other acts. The other side will be a theater, with a bigger stage and seating area.
“A lot of what we are hoping is that we can mix local artists and more famous people,” Grant said. “Live music will be from local bands and we’re hoping to have our own so that when we have our dance performances, the music and singing will be live.”
About 10 dancers are in the 78 Dance Company. They practice daily with lead choreographer, Ervis Nallbani, of “Dancing With the Stars.” Nallbani has trained in dance around the world for the last 30 years.
“We are growing up together,” Nallbani said. “Everyday is a new experience with them and they have a new experience with you.”
Dancer Gigi Sweeney of Windsor said she learned about the auditions after moving back from California. Sweeney has a background in various styles of dance, like lyrical, ballroom, jazz and hip hop.
“For me, this is about making history,” Sweeney said. “I feel like the trans dance community is really small. A lot of trans girls are not taking the opportunity to put themselves out there as who they want to be because they feel like they can’t.”
Dancers TyQuan Anderson and Khaleel Exum-Strong, both from Norwich, said they have been dancing since they were children. Anderson said he appreciates the representation within the 78 Dance Company.
“It’s very unique,” Anderson said. “This is a group of diverse dancers and we all have our own walks of dance. So it’s an interesting mix.”
The dance company continues to audition professional dancers 18 and older with a ballet, modern and/or jazz background for full-time positions.
The dance company will perform every Friday and Saturday once the theater opens.
“We are hoping this will be an excellent, live entertainment, fantasy land in a way,” Grant said. “We will have a lot of art and music crowds. We really want to help build up southern Connecticut”