How a Ballet School Thrives in Unusual Digs

by Katherine Gustafson on December 24, 2013
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When Galmont Ballet outgrew its commercial space in a Florida strip mall, owners Frank Galvez and Lucia Montero chose an unorthodox new space for their Centre for Dance Education: an industrial warehouse unit.

The married couple — originally from Cuba and Venezuela, respectively — had spent decades as dancers, teachers, and artistic directors with various companies and schools around the world before opening their own academy in 2003. The fledgling ballet school was such a success that it needed to expand after just two years.

Affordable Space

Larger commercial spaces were expensive and tended to have low ceilings (which is problematic for dancers practicing lifts). The warehouse space would solve both of these problems and also offer a blank interior that Galvez and Montero could customize.

“The best space for a ballet school is an open space that you can design as you need in the inside,” Montero says. “Warehouse-type spaces provide you with that organic space and high ceilings.”

In 2006, the couple found a vacant warehouse in a convenient location — not always the case with industrial facilities — and a landlord who was open to having new, somewhat unusual tenants. Redesigning the inside of a rented facility was costly, but it made sense because the location was so affordable.

“It was a decision of, Where do we want to spend our money, on monthly rent or building out the inside?” Montero says. “[The answer] was very clear.”

They created a lobby, two classrooms, and a storage area for props, costumes, and other paraphernalia. The 16-foot-high ceilings provide a challenge for economical heating and cooling, but Galvez and Montero installed fans to distribute warm and cool air. The storage area does not need climate control; the fans keep the costume area sufficiently ventilated.

“You have to make sure there’s no energy wasted,” Montero explains. “Otherwise, the electrical bill will kill you.”

Industrial Evolution

The Galmont Ballet school’s presence in the industrial park has transformed the immediate area, drawing businesses such as a flower shop, a Pilates studio, and a crafts workshops to the venue.

“In the beginning it was unusual: We were a ballet school among plumbing and air-conditioning businesses,” says Montero. “Now it’s almost like we’re in a commercial strip mall because of the types of businesses that have come there.”

Montero’s advice to other entrepreneurs looking for economical, appropriate alternatives to “business as usual” is to identify their unique needs.

“Based on how the economy is going at this time, you have to become very smart every step of the way,” Montero says. “A lot of people were like, ‘Are you crazy? How are you going to make that happen?’ But we thought, this is what it’s supposed to be for the needs of our business.”

Their decision has paid off: This year, the Galmont Ballet Centre for Dance Education just celebrated its 10th year in business and its seventh in its affordable, customized space.

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