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The City Journals

Save the Centre

Oct 31, 2016 12:26PM ● By Alisha Soeken

Part of Elkridge Middle School’s ballroom team at the Murray Arts Centre. (Alisha Soeken/City Journals)

By Alisha Soeken | [email protected]

Murray, Utah - The art and culture of dance is a treasure to those who love and promote it. Two of those promoters are Murray residents Susan and Bill Wright.  

“Adults and children are exposed to so much harsh loud music, to X-rated shows and violence. The arts take you to another place. Dance and ballet refine and better your life,” Susan Wright said.

That belief led Susan and husband Bill to open the Murray Arts Centre 30 years ago. 

“We bought the old Grand Central Discount Store and started fixing it up. It was a mess,” Wright said.

That mess was transformed into a beautiful,12,000-square-foot ballroom that soon became home to other lovers of dance and good culture. 

One such person is Teleni Togisala who has been dancing at the Murray Arts Centre for over 30 years. 

“I like the environment, I like the hall, the light and music but most of all I love the owners. They are the most wonderful people,” Togisala said. 

And that love is reciprocated.

“My favorite thing about the Arts Centre is the people. It’s an older crowd that comes and the place has become kind of a social center for them,” Wright said.

It is also a social center to a younger crowd. The Elkridge Middle School’s ballroom team has made it their tradition to come to the Murray Arts Centre and dance after making the second year ballroom team.

They come for fun and because it’s a safe and unique environment. There is no smoking or drinking allowed at the Murray Arts Centre and its patrons appreciate that. The Centre is also known for its wonderful live music. 

Eighty-three year old Laura has been dancing at the Arts Centre for over 15 years and comes early to get a seat near the band.

“I love the band playing tonight. I hate to miss them. I love the piano player and I told him ‘Liberace has nothing on you,’” Laura said.

Laura spoke of the Ken Foster Trio who has played at the Murray Arts Centre for almost 20 years. Brian Foster, Ken Foster and Robert Macart —who played with the Osmonds for eight years — enjoy the variety of music they get to play at the Murray Arts Centre.

“Here we get to play lots of swing music, Latin stuff and rock. We even throw in a couple pop tunes now and then to mix things up and freak everybody out,” Brian Foster said.

But it’s the future of the Centre that freaks people out, not its music. Music and dance have filled the large ballroom for over 30 years. Marriage proposals have been made, weddings performed, and endless dances given under its roof but for the first time the life and longevity of the Murray Arts Centre is in question. The City of Murray purchased the land for development and so those who call it home now plead for its survival.