I’ve got a story for you. This story is the reason I haven’t been around this blog too much lately. It’s a great story, with glitz and glamor and historic preservation, along with a healthy dose of hope. At least I think so.
A few weeks ago I was walking through the Bloomfield neighborhood just up the hill from my house on a beautiful day, hanging flyers for a Gala Bellydance Show. As I’ve mentioned before, I love hanging posters because it gives me a chance to stop in every shop and make discoveries about the world around me. As I hung my poster on the bulletin board at Starbucks, another flyer caught my eye. I pulled it down and headed back out into the street. I’m glad I did.
The flyer was for a brand new studio space set to open at the end of October. A studio space with 5000 square feet of floating dance floor, offering classes in ballroom, ballet, samba, salsa, modern, jazz, west coast swing, hip hop, and tap dance. This mystery studio had everything but bellydance. I was completely intrigued. I made my way home, keeping an eye out for a building in Bloomfield that had 5000 square feet for a dance floor. That evening, I called the number on the website for the Pittsburgh Dance Center and spent an hour on the phone with Holly.
Holly Dayton-Kirby is the dynamic force behind the Pittsburgh Dance Center. A professional ballroom dance teacher and instructor, Holly grew up in the Bloomfield neighborhood. She was raised by a single mother who struggled to make ends meet, let alone pay for dance classes. A couple crucial scholarships allowed her to become a professional dancer, performing with Dance Alloy in Pittsburgh and later as a part of the cast of Riverdance. Holly loves the neighborhood where she grew up. She also understands what it is like to be a kid who wants to dance and doesn’t have the money to afford it. She lives outside the city now, in the fancy suburban South Hills. But when she decided to open her own dance studio, she put it right in the midst of Bloomfield. She said she wanted to give back the neighborhood- and that she would never turn a kid who turned up with toe shoes in hand, lacking the five dollars she is charging for every kids dance class.
That’s right, I said five dollars. About the cost of one of those fancy grande lattes you can purchase in the Starbucks downstairs. The 5000 square feet of studio space at the Pittsburgh Dance Center are located directly above the Starbucks in Bloomfield. The building that houses the Starbucks and the dance studio used to be a movie palace called the Plaza Theater. Here is the Plaza Theater in 1937.
And here is the Plaza today.
The glamor has faded a bit, but the detail on that building is still beautiful if you look closely.
It is even more beautiful on the inside. The theater was converted into two floors. Starbucks is downstairs, next to a restaurant. The second floor is where Holly put the dance studio. She took a blank space with a cement block floor and the ornate ceiling of the original movie palace and created a gorgeous warm and welcoming dance studio. It took a whole lot of work.
I was privileged to get a glimpse of the tail end of that process.
Holly, her husband, and their three kids were at the studio day and night in the week leading up to the grand opening. 5000 square feet is a lot of flooring to lay down.
The studio opened on Halloween weekend.
I am teaching a class at the studio in a couple of hours- I’ll be there every Saturday at 3 for a bellydance class, if you are in the area and want to stop by. There is also a show tonight at the studio with local bellyrock band Ishtar- only five bucks, a bellydance lesson, special performances, and an open dance floor. Come on by if you are in the area!
I am thrilled to be a part of this project. I love teaching at the PDC and I am excited to take classes with the other teachers at the studio. There is a complete schedule of classes available here. I think it is a great story of urban renewal, historic preservation, and hope. If you’re around, I hope you can be a part of it.
Want to keep reading about my urban neighborhood adventures?