A local couple decided they couldn’t wait for another affordable performance venue to open in Denton.
Instead, Alex Cole and her husband West Oxking decided to turn their Southeast Denton backyard into a venue.
Little D Performance Platform has one major difference from other house show spaces, though. This space gives priority to dancers and dance companies.
“There are studios, but they’re geared for younger dancers,” said Alex Cole, who graduated from Texas Woman’s University in 2014. “The Campus Theatre and the [PointBank] Black Box Theatre are fantastic, but they’re almost always reserved.”
Cole and Oxking said other spaces in town are too expensive for a lot of dancers to reserve. So the couple created Little D Performance Platform about 25 paces away from their back door.
“Eventually, we looked at each other and were like ‘Why don’t we do what we want in our backyard, which we own?’” Cole said. “As long as we’re respectful of our neighbors, we could do it.”
Denton has long had a house show scene, where touring bands and local bands sharpen their sets and play memorable nights — often in rental homes in Denton’s sleepier neighborhoods. Oxking said he’s played his share of those venues himself.
The hardest part of creating Little D Performance Platform was building the sprung floor — a specially designed floor that absorbs shocks for dancers and athletes.
“I took a year and a half, maybe two years to get all the wood, the recycled wood and get it together,” said Oxking, a musician who has both accompanied dance rehearsals, performances and played house shows with a band or two. “We made it out of recycled wood and tires we hauled off from different places for free.”
“The bracing we paid for,” Cole said. “We paid for that because we weren’t messing around with bracing. That needed to be done well and right.”
“We kind of took the model of a Taekwondo studio in Houston, I think, to build it,” Oxking said.
The result is a stage that has an irregular shape — it’s sort of a wedge — and a beaten up surface. But it feels springy. Cole and Oxking said they’ve booked events — mostly dance rehearsals and performances — just about every month since they opened their space last November.
“We’re learning that the summer is just way too hot for people to rehearse,” Cole said. “Well, it might be too hot to just sit outside and watch people dance. But it looks like the spring and the fall are going to be our busy times.”
The couple has a few dozen chairs — most of them recycled from outdoor furniture sets — in front of the stage, but they also spread out saddle blankets and encourage visitors to bring blankets and chairs if they’d like. They set up string lights and light tripods around the yard, and Oxking runs audio and lights out of a lemonade stand they made for Burning Man. At some performances, artists have painted while performers were on stage.
“It actually works pretty well,” Oxking said.
A foot path is visible from the street, which ends in a small parking lot that serves visitors to Carl Gene Young Sr. Park. It leads to the couple’s gate and into the yard. Cole and Oxking have a vintage camper, and during performances, they let attendees use the camper’s bathroom. The house is a green room — a spot adjacent to the stage where performers gather before, during and after a performance. And an important note: performances are BYOB. (“There’s no drinking in the front yard,” Cole said. “We’re in a neighborhood.”)
“So far, we’ve probably gotten about 30 people at each show,” Cole said.
Performances are pay-what-you-can, and Cole said they divide the proceeds among the performers.
“Even if it’s $10, we want to pay the artists,” Oxking added.
Cole and Oxking post announcements about Little D Performance Platform on the venue’s Facebook page and on Instagram (@lildpp). And they stream a lot of performances on Facebook Live.
“If you want to use the space, all you have to do is email me. I can tell you 10,000 dates that are free,” Cole said.
“We want to build this with people who share our passion,” Oxking said.