The weirdest thing happened to Blake Piatczyc when he arrived at a callback for NBC’s new competition show, “World of Dance.”
“I was scared,” Piatczyc says.
He had been on big televised stages before. Piatczyc (pee-AHT-check), a 23-year-old Lee’s Summit professional dancer and choreographer, had already competed on multiple seasons of “America’s Got Talent.” He had done the same on Paula Abdul’s dance show “Live to Dance.” He has performed at awards shows, danced with Rihanna, been featured in music videos for national recording artists and competed in international dance competitions. Still, this latest competition was different and daunting.
“There were winners everywhere,” Piatczyc says. “Winners of ‘America’s Best Dance Crew,’ winners of ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ winners of ‘America’s Got Talent.’ There were YouTube sensations and huge Instagram stars and just amazing, amazing talent everywhere.”
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Such is the premise of “World of Dance,” NBC’s reality dance competition premiering Tuesday, May 30. With judges Jennifer Lopez (who also executive produces), Derek Hough and Ne-Yo and host Jenna Dewan Tatum, the show brings in solo dancers and dance troupes of all ages from around the globe to compete for a $1 million prize and the modest title of “best dancer in the world.”
Unlike its dance and reality show contemporaries, there’s no pomp or fluff. Dancers aren’t required to do routines in styles outside their comfort zones as in “So You Think You Can Dance.” They aren’t confined to a theme like on “America’s Best Dance Crew.” Partners with virtually no talent won’t bog them down like on “Dancing With the Stars.” Producers didn’t insert any William Hungs for cheap laughs, filler contestants who have no business being anywhere in the vicinity of a serious competition.
“They told us this audition is for the best of the best, period,” Piatczyc says.
This means a show that will see the Parisian hip-hop dance duo Les Twins, known for sharing the stage with the likes of Beyonce and Missy Elliott, compete against Swing Latino, a 16-member salsa group from Colombia. Or Rhythmatic, a tap ensemble from New York, battling it out against the Jabbawockeez, a hip-hop group so popular it has been given residency at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. This means contemporary steppers from Ireland, break-dancers from Arizona and a belly dancer from Miami.
“We normally go into these competitions feeling pretty confident about at least our first routine,” Piatczyc says. “But we knew we could be gone first round. That was scary.”
Competitors are grouped in three categories: Juniors for 17 and under, Upper for 18 and over, and Team for groups of five or more who are 18 and over.
Piatczyc will compete in the Team category as part of the Miami All Stars, a Latin ballroom group affiliated with Miami studio DanceTown. Since he was 14, Piatczyc has split time honing his skills at dance studios in Lee’s Summit and Miami. His group got the call last April to audition for “World of Dance.”
The 47 finalists filmed the competition in its entirety earlier this year. Piatczyc knows who won but is bound to secrecy by NBC.
Luckily, he has another huge project to keep him occupied in the meantime.
When “World of Dance” premieres, Piatczyc will watch alongside family, friends, co-workers and students at the BPM Dance Complex, the 12,000-square-foot coliseum of a dance studio he owns that’s about to open in Lee’s Summit.
BPM stands for Blake Piataczyc Marshall, his full married name, but there’s a little wordplay too: “beats per minute comes to mind a lot,” he says.
BPM will be one of the largest dance complexes in the area, complete with a lounge for instructors, café, Zen room, reading room, a room where the siblings of students can chill out and watch TV or play video games. And, of course, the dance studios: four of various sizes where Piatczyc and his co-workers can teach ballet, jazz, tap, musical theater, hip-hop, Latin, ballroom, lyrical or any of the other dance styles he has mastered in his more than 15 years of training. He’ll also partner with the Kansas City performance troupe Quixotic to teach aerial silks.
BPM will have its grand opening July 21 and begin offering classes to the public the following month.
The behemoth dance complex is the culmination of a career that saw Piatczyc begin teaching choreography at the age of 14. Shortly after, he began competing in national competitions and studying at DanceTown, oftentimes spending months in Miami while completing school courses online. During his senior year at Lee’s Summit West, he doubled down on his credits in the first semester in order to free up time to spend with the All Stars.
He has offered a series of intensive two-week dance classes around the world and taught private and group classes at studios around town.
“His maturity and his drive for excellence, especially at his age, is just so rare,” says Crysti Miller, owner of Studio J, another Lee’s Summit dance studio.
So impressive, in fact, that when Piatczyc made the cold call to Studio J and suggested it be absorbed by BPM, Miller agreed:
“To be honest, at first (Studio J) was like, ‘Why do we need to do that?’ ” Miller says. “But then we met with Blake and were blown away by how similar our viewpoints were and how passionate he was. We decided the merger felt like progress.”
Dennis and Krystyn Roberts of Lee’s Summit are friends of Piatczyc’s parents and have known him “practically since he was born.” They’ve also watched as he has taught their 12-year-old daughter Lexie dance for the past 10 years.
“He’s phenomenal with kids. My daughter loves him to death,” Dennis Roberts says. “He has moments where he can be serious and moments where he can really connect and interact great with them. When you have a teacher who is as passionate about what they do as he is, it filters down.”
Krystyn Roberts says she sometimes tears up thinking of the time Piatczyc stepped in when, days before a father-daughter dance recital, Dennis blew out his knee. “It was an honor for Lexie to dance with him, and the fact he stepped in so she wouldn’t miss that was such an important moment for her.”
They talk about another dance mom who told them how, even though she knew her kid wasn’t that great of a dancer, she loved how Piatczyc made her feel important. “He truly makes every kid feel special in their own way,” Dennis Roberts says.
“I’m fueled by passion and a commitment to excellence,” Piatczyc says. “It’s why I’m here and why I do what I do.”
Where to watch
▪ “World of Dance” premieres at 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 30, on NBC.
▪ Blake Piatcyzc will host a watch party from 7:30 to 10 that night at his BPM Dance Complex, 1220 S.E. Broadway Drive, Lee’s Summit. Attendees can tour the dance studio and learn about upcoming classes. See BPMDanceComplex.com