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In 2005, Dr. Bob E. Petres purchased the vacant Bainbridge Jr. High School gymnasium with the intent to renovate the building into a performing arts center in Richmond’s southside community of Manchester. Dr. Petres’ son, Rob Petres, then founded the Dogtown Arts Foundation and quickly began renovating the historic space into a performance center. In 2012, the Dogtown Arts Foundation was officially renamed Dogtown Dance Theatre. In 2015, Dogtown saw the necessity to elevate the organization, and the theatre came under new direction, bringing Jess Burgess in as the Artistic and Executive Director. Burgess’s focus has been to develop and expand the nonprofit’s outreach potential through carefully structured and pointed programming that empowers both Richmond artists and the Manchester community.

Dogtown Dance Theatre is a home for performing artists to create and present their work while developing the skills needed to thrive. Dogtown seeks to enliven our local community by encouraging expansive creative expression and education across diverse populations. The organization achieves this mission and vision by focusing on the following core values: enrichment, intersection, and home.  Dogtown acts as a multi-faceted support system for the artists who call the theatre “home.” Through its in-house programs and the beautifully renovated historic space, Dogtown strives to facilitate the growth and progress of artists in its local community. Dogtown’s programs help artists cultivate the professional and artistic skills needed to thrive in the Richmond community. The goal is to encourage diversity in the arts while fostering the Richmond community's appreciation for art and expression in all of its forms. Dogtown's supportive, inclusive network of artists enriches and uplifts, taking steps forward together.

Now in its eighth year as a non-profit, Dogtown Dance Theatre has evolved by refining and developing its year-round classes and workshops into its Artist Resource Program and signature Mainstage Performance Series; both designed to meet the needs of the Manchester community, the Richmond dance community, and the artists that call Dogtown “home.” The Artist Resource Program provides year-round support to Richmond dancers to create the career they envision in the industry. The organization educates artists through the development of critical entrepreneurial skills. Dogtown offers workshops throughout the year for artists in skills such as budget planning, portfolio development, grant writing, marketing and public relations. The Mainstage Performance Series includes the critically-acclaimed Richmond Dance Festival, the community-oriented Mardi Gras RVA celebration, and the largest of our Richmond-centric programs: Dogtown Presenter’s Series. These events provide agency and support for local, regional, national, and international dance artists while simultaneously providing affordable access for Manchester residents to explore the creative expression that will lead to self-actualization.

In the last three years, Dogtown has worked diligently to focus on infrastructure, sustainability, board of directors restructure, diversifying funding, and strengthening the Artist Resource Program and its Mainstage Performance Series. The theatre adapts to outreach needs, donor trends, and artist demands in order to continually find new and innovative ways to reach Richmond’s independent artists.

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