Makeovers, renovations, and dream spaces
by Heather Turbeville
Sometimes all the stars align. “Everything fell into place,” Blake Piatczyc says of launching his dance school, BPM Dance Complex. “That’s how I know that this thing was meant to be.” But Piatczyc, a professional dancer, began the journey toward studio ownership in an inauspicious way: he got injured. The specialist he saw for his hip injury was in the Kansas City, Missouri, metro area (which includes Lee’s Summit), where he had grown up. After recovering from surgery, he started teaching in the area and realized that he missed his old home and wanted to give back to the community.
Machine shop to dance school
The building Piatczyc leased in Lee’s Summit used to be a machine shop and had to be completely renovated. Construction began in March 2017. Dance families helped with the demolition, decorating, and painting. “The sweat equity made it feel like this is something that we built together as a team and a family,” Piatczyc says.
BPM, which stands for Blake Piatczyc Marshall, Piatczyc’s married name, opened in June 2017. Nearly 250 students ages 2 to 18 now take classes in jazz, tap, ballet, musical theater, contemporary, aerial silks, flexibility, and yoga. There is also a Saturday parent-child yoga class and an adult Zumba class that takes place while one of the busy evening preschool classes is going on, so that parents can get a workout of their own without leaving the building.
The space is just under 12,000 square feet; 22-foot ceilings provide an open concept without too much of an echo. The four dance classrooms are on the first floor. All have sprung floors with grade-A marley. “That was very important to me,” Piatczyc says, “because I grew up at a studio that had concrete floors. That might have contributed to some of my injuries.”
In the largest classroom, teachers tape out the wings and floor plans so that students can practice competition routines in the same amount of space they’ll have at nationals. There’s also plenty of room for props. The doorway is the size of the smallest loading dock they’ll use, so “we won’t run into any issues,” Piatczyc says.
The stereo systems are Bluetooth-enabled, which according to Piatczyc is “very helpful for teachers who use their phones or Apple Watches because they can walk around and stop and start the music without having to go back to the stereo. It helps them stay in the moment.”
Elegance and family-friendliness
Though the studio still has a warehouse feel, Piatczyc says, “we went really elegant with some of our fixtures and paint choices and colors,” including lots of rich golds, rhinestones, and crystals. “We wanted to make it a place where everyone wants to be.”
The second floor has a loft with one-way viewing windows, so that parents can watch their kids in class. For preschool-age kids in particular, “it’s really special for the parents to see that their kids are having fun and learning,” Piatczyc says. Since the windows are one-way, the kids can’t see out and don’t get distracted.
Parents can also hang out with each other in the loft, drink coffee, and watch the 70-inch TV. For the brothers and sisters who don’t dance, there is a sibling room with three TVs, a Wii, an Xbox, a PlayStation, and Netflix. “It’s a big family environment,” Piatczyc says.
There are quiet areas upstairs for the dancers, including a homework room with a Wi-Fi network. Because many of the local school districts give students Chromebooks, there are charging ports in the homework room. “They never have an excuse that they don’t have a charged laptop,” Piatczyc says. The homework room is constantly monitored to make sure that kids aren’t goofing off.
The other quiet area is the Zen room. If kids come to the studio feeling stressed and overwhelmed, or if they get frustrated in class, they can go to the Zen room and sit with the lights off in a soothing environment and decompress.
The studio also has locker rooms, where dancers can safely store their things, including extra shoes and dancewear, so they never have to sit out a class because they forgot something; Blake’s Boutique, which sells dancewear, competition and performance make-up, shoes, and more; and a costume headquarters fully equipped with sewing machines, appliqués, fabric, and stones.
While the moms do costuming, Piatczyc says, “dads work on building props.” In fact, the dads refer to BPM’s prop headquarters as the man cave. “It’s a place where they can feel they’re contributing,” Piatczyc says. “They put the work into those props their kids are performing with.”
Twenty-six cameras are installed in and around the building. “The area is very safe and protected,” Piatczyc says, “but still feels warm and comforting.” There is also plentiful parking in front of and behind the building.
BPM is currently expanding to the building next door, building a fifth studio that will be 60 feet by 45 feet.
A TV boost
After Piatczyc recovered from his surgery and started teaching master classes, he got a call to compete on the NBC TV show World of Dance. By the time it aired, he was working on the studio, so he mentioned it in all of his interviews. He also held WOD watch parties, which brought people into the studio.
Piatczyc urges studio owners to listen to their customers. They shouldn’t be making major decisions, he says, but these are the people who pay the bills. If they see you putting in a little effort for something they’re asking for, especially when several people are asking for the same thing, it keeps them coming back and wanting to be part of the studio.
“Have fun,” Piatczyc says. “You can have an advanced hard-core studio while having fun. School is so hard now; kids have so much homework.” He believes they need a space where they can dance and have fun and still receive awesome training.
“This is your one shot to do it,” Piatczyc says of building out or renovating a studio. It’s hard to change something once it’s been built, to get out of a lease, or to move to a new building. “If you’re able to, take the risk and build your dream studio.”
DSL copy editor Heather Turbeville holds an MFA in creative writing and literature from Emerson College. She lives in San Francisco, where she writes fiction, studies belly dance, and performs with The Zakiyya Dancers.