Digging the Backhoe Ballet

Ever see heavy machinery bend, bow, twirl and even do-si-do?

You had your chance when three dancing dozers directed by three dancing members of the arts community kicked off last week’s ground-breaking for the Nevada Museum of Art’s new building.

Reno’s String Beings played for dozens of donors, city officials and art lovers while the Backhoe Ballet proceeded last Thursday. The three dancers in hard hats guided three backhoes (owned by Clark & Sullivan Constructors and J.B. Enterprises) through a routine choreographed by Elizabeth Weigel of AREA-51 Dance Theatre.

Up, up, up went the scoopy things. Then they swung to the left, swung to the right. Up, down. One and a two and a do-si-do as two of the backhoes grumbled around in circles in front of the larger backhoe, its scoopy thing lifted high. The grace of the lumbering machines reminded me of trained elephants at the circus. But noisier.

Will Bruder, the architect who designed the 55,000-square-foot facility, was on hand for champagne and cake. He said people have asked him about the black antra-zinc material to be used for the exterior of the building.

“They say, ‘I thought you were going to use black granite from the Black Rock Desert,’ “ he said. “But an architect has to take everything into consideration; the design … the budget …”

Construction is expected to take about a year. The innovatively designed building, intended to be a metaphor for the Nevada landscape, will be a new landmark for Reno, said Peter Pool, president of the NMA Board of Trustees.

"From now on, whenever anyone builds a public building in Reno, they’ll look to this building for inspiration," Pool said.