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Performing Arts Network, Destroyed by Arson in 2009, Returns to North Miami

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Miami can be an unforgiving city. Amidst the swaying palms and the sauntering sex bombs straddling the cracked sidewalks, there are some unpleasant individuals doing unpleasant things. Rapists and robbers, vandals and vagrants, assholes and arsonists. It was one of these fare that destroyed the Performing Arts Network (PAN), setting it on fire just shy of its ten-year anniversary.

In 2009, the nine-year-old PAN -- where scores of this city's dancers of all disciplines would come together and practice their craft, as well as host performances -- was turned from an artistic focal point of the community to a gutted hulk of charred drywall and broken glass. Over the last four years, PAN's creative director, Ilisa Rosal, and her husband, Michael George, who oversees World Arts Village Inc., owner of the plaza where PAN is located, have been working like madmen to bring this once grand establishment back to life. The process has not been an easy one.

"It [the fire] was very devastating," said Rosal. "We'd built this organization up over many years, many people had worked to make it successful, and just to have it all burn down in a couple of hours with no warning was really a shock. It was really traumatic."

And while the financial ramifications were "tremendous," as Rosal put it, there were much more painful losses that had to be dealt with in the aftermath of the inferno.

"My husband's art studio burned down," she continued, "all of his paintings, years of his work - all reduced to ashes. Oil paintings, watercolors, acrylic paintings...that was one of the worst parts -- all the artwork that could not be replaced...To walk into PAN and see the mirrors all crashed to the ground, the wardrobes and costumes all burnt up, the archives gone -- it was incredibly difficult. And then it was even an uphill battle to get our insurance settlement... It's been a long, hard road since 2009."

But Rosal and George had no interest in the prospect of throwing in the towel. They did what they had to do, persevering through litigation to get the money they were owed, the money they needed to resuscitate their business. They moved to a temporary smaller space, where dancers could still come to practice and learn, but where they no longer had the room for shows.

And in January of this year, the Performing Arts Center began to reap the benefits of that hard work with a soft opening that will last until October, when the grand re-opening celebration will take place.

Until then, Rosal wants people to know that "things are going really well with new artists and new programs."

"At this time we're now seeing kind of a new surge of energy and participation in the programs and we want to let everybody know that we are open for business. We have many classes, we've already had several performances and events, many of our artists are coming back, along with new artists to the Performing Arts Center, which has all been very exciting," noted Rosal.

For now, the main thrust of Rosal's energy is being driven towards letting this city know that PAN is back and better than ever before in order to regain the momentum that they had developed between 2000 and 2009.

According to Rosal, "We have been doing a lot of networking and trying to get the word out in the arts community and the community in general to let them know that we're here and we're available for all kinds of programs, and we've had a wonderful response. There are many new groups that are involved with us and are doing their programs at our space."

"And the new space is so beautiful," she went on, "that not only are we going to be offering classes and performances, we're actually also going to have it available to rent for events. We've already had parties, communions, birthdays, those types of events there...We've already had a rock concert, a tango milonga evening, a flamenco performance, and several private parties. So, slowly the word is starting to get out and we're just focusing on connecting with people who can help us spread the word that this is a great new venue for the arts in North Miami."

The new Performing Arts Network will have a range of classes for both children and adults, ranging from beginner to advanced levels, in a broad swathe of genres from Ballet to Bachata and Piano to Pilates. Rosal has managed to bring together some incredible talents to teach these programs -- experienced professionals willing to bring their finely honed abilities to those hoping to learn.

And come October, PAN's grand re-opening should be an arts extravaganza to behold and to revel in, with too many artists and performance groups scheduled to even list adequately, according to Rosal.

"We have so many artists that wanted to participate that we wanted to choose that date that would be able to accommodate the greatest number of artists. So we tried to pick a date farther in the future so people could put it in their calendars," Rosal explained.

And for the night they cut the ribbon, Rosal says they've decided to adopt a very apropos mythos to adorn the evening.

"We're going to make it a theme night -- it's going to be called 'The Night of the Phoenix', symbolizing the Phoenix rising from the ashes. That's really inspiring for us and really empowering. All of the performances will be related to the theme and I think its just going to be a wonderful event."

PAN is located at 13124 West Dixie Hgwy., North Miami. Call 305-899-7730.

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