Fred Astaire Dance Studio's retinue of step-savvy instructors transforms clunky feet into sashaying instruments through a quartet of private and group dance classes. During the 45-minute private lessons, students and their optional partners learn basic footwork while building the confidence necessary to take a spin on the dance floor or backflip into a corporate rival's cubicle. Covering the basics of Latin, ballroom, swing, and country-western dancing, individual lessons cater to a student’s specific needs before letting them loose during the 45-minute group classes. Accompanied by 8–30 other amateur rug cutters, these communal dance lessons bolster partnership, timing, and rhythm, and keep feet agile enough to maneuver the punch-bowl stampedes of modern dance floors.
Sugar Land Gymnastics & Dance's expansive space is a patchwork of tumbling mats, balance beams, uneven bars, and other equipment. It's amidst this colorful collage that kids lay a foundation for lifelong fitness and future sports such as basketball, or basketball with backflips. Students are guided by a knowledgeable team of instructors headed by Executive Director Bryan Kiser, who has more than 25 years of experience with the Men's Junior Olympic gymnastics program, and Mei, the women's coach, whose more than three decades of gymnastics experience includes time as a competitor with the Chinese national gymnastics team. The staff splits kids up by age and skill level for recreational gymnastics, and those who decide to pursue their flips and tumbles more seriously can transition into Sugar Land Gymnastics & Dance's competitive program.
In addition to gymnastics, the staff teaches karate, dance, and cheerleading lessons. Seasoned instructor Bonita Jennings builds coordination and grace, transforming the pitter-patter of little feet into the structured patterns of dance styles such as tap, jazz, ballet, and hip-hop. When classes aren't in session, Sugar Land Gymnastics & Dance hosts birthday parties with activities such as rock-wall climbing and ziplining.
Laeral Dance Academy works with dancers of all ages and abilities to hone the energy of restless feet into graceful and artistic movements. Inside a naturally lit studio adorned with wall-size mirrors, a coalition of professional instructors—many of whom have been dancing since the age of 3—train students in the fine art of stylishly stamping out floor fires during classes ranging from classical ballet to hip-hop. Ballet classes for students between 2 and 7 will focus on the Melody Bear method, which helps develop concentration and motor skills by integrating fun dance movements with shapes, counting, stories, and music. Tykes can also develop their jazz and tap abilities, finally enabling Morse code communication with downstairs neighbors. In addition to children's ankle workouts, Laeral Dance Academy hosts adult dance and fitness classes, including a calorie-scorching salsa aerobics class.
At the Latin Dance Factory, Christian Franco Gutierrez teaches students rather than a set of rigid moves. A native of Peru, Gutierrez emphasizes the importance of personal flair when dancing—but he also emphasizes the importance of repetition. Instead of teaching entire routines to beginners, he builds their dance repertoires with simple drills, ensuring that his footloose charges master the basic steps of their chosen style.
The studio's dance styles run the gamut from salsa and merengue to cumbia and kizomba. The lesson formats are similarly eclectic. Students can hone their skills in hour-long group lessons, four-hour intensives, or private lessons. For a more social atmosphere, newly minted two-steppers can practice at "date nights," candlelit dance lessons with wine and cheese spreads.
Barefoot students sway to the music, moving their arms rhythmically, punctuating the flow every so often with martial-arts-style punches and kicks across the sprung wood floor. The low-impact, low-pressure practice nourishes the body, mind, and spirit alike—as co-owner Helen Tracy told Great Day Houston, “I fell in love with my body through Nia.” The instructors at NiaMoves specialize in Nia’s aerobic workouts, in addition to an eclectic assortment of other group fitness classes. The instructors lead students in everything from body-stretching and mind-calming yoga sessions to aerobic hoop-dance workouts. Many of the classes are holistically refreshing, including the healing drum-and-dance-circle sessions, which begin with a tension-relieving meditation session. Instructor Emilia then leads students in expressing themselves through movement and thumping drum beats, both of which are effective during most job interviews.
It's not easy to take over for a guy like Allen Darnel, a 55-year ballroom-dance veteran who taught celebrities such as Zsa Zsa Gabor and Aldous Huxley. But now W. Michael Smith and Enrique Baez-Trevino are cutting in on the recently retired Beginners Only Social Ballroom & Latin Dance Studio founder's waltz, and they have impressive resumés of their own to brandish. Baez-Trevino has studied under prominent trainers since he was 13, and Smith has trained in both theater and broadcasting, a background he believes helps him give clear instructions to his students. These two masters lead 45-minute private lessons for individuals, couples, and groups of up to 10, sharing their knowledge of swing, salsa, and the tango in private rooms. The schedule is unusually flexible, with lessons available until 10 p.m. on Monday through Saturday.