Many dance companies approach ballet from a modern angle. Caroline Calouche prefers a more perpendicular one. When the stage is not enough space for her visions of macabre masquerade balls or surreal dreamscapes, she takes to the air above it, outfitted with a cirque's worth of aerial harnesses and accouterments. Her dancers are just as likely to pirouette down a 20-foot skein of golden silk as across a hardwood floor. Pairs of lovers might hang precariously from the frame of a hollow cube or perform a gravity-defying pas de deux on the double lyra—their suspension above the earth either an expression of freedom or a prison of their own making. Like identifying an elderly smoker's gender over the phone, the airborne element leaves plenty of room for interpretation.
By marrying the storytelling ability of floor-bound choreography with the gravity-defying tricks of circus arts, Caroline Calouche & Co. unleashes the full potential of aerial dance. The company's productions are free to venture to strange new places. For example, in past shows, women have risen from their graves to haunt their murderous husbands. Likewise, the sounds of Moby and Blue Man Group are more likely to be heard than Debussy.
Audience members who want to plqy the ropes and silks for themselves can learn to do so during the dance company's aerial-dance classes, along with a tight curriculum of ballet, contemporary, and stretching and strengthening courses. For all its global influences and aerial showmanship, Caroline Calouche & Co. keeps its feet rooted in the local community with outreach programs for all ages, ethnicities, and social groups.
Angie Acosta, founder of Queen City DanceOut, has a simple motto for her students: "If you're moving, you're doing it right." This encouraging, low-pressure attitude attracts people of all ages to her dance-inspired fitness classes, which meet at 18 public locations. Angie and her instructors aim to make exercise feel like a celebration and a refreshing break rather than a dreaded routine. To this end, their classes incorporate intuitive dance moves and invigorating music. DanceOut, the signature course, blends genres as diverse as swing, hip-hop, and reggae into a workout, relying on repetition and basic choreography to keep everyone grooving. Other highlights of the curriculum include the Latin rhythms of Zumba; the Dance Impact class, which fuses dance and kickboxing; and JamStrong, a mixture of core-conditioning, dance, and fun.
Community is a central aspect of every DanceOut class. As pupils practice their twirls, they can follow both the teacher and the Jam Crew—a team of regulars who help make the steps easy to follow and can assist fellow dancers. In addition to group workouts, instructors host skill workshops such as Booty Bootcamp, where attendees learn rump-shaking techniques and how to turn any chair into a rocking chair. They also put on performances and lead private classes for special events and parties.
It may be difficult to decide who has a better time at Energy Sports & Fitness: parents or kids. Adults not only burn calories with a huge selection of weights, on a full-size racquetball court, or in the circuit-training area, but also catch up on favorite shows in the cardio theater or at more than 100 cardio stations with individual televisions. Youngsters with a Kid Zone membership romp through more than 2,500 feet of supervised play space outfitted with a Wii, jungle gym, basketball court, and homework stations with computers. The area even has a video camera so parents can check in from their treadmills to see if their child is actually a vampire. Families refuel after a workout with fresh smoothies, chicken wraps, and supplements at the Grand Slam Cafe.
The staff—which includes the 2010 NPC Charlotte Cup novice division bodybuilding winner—opens the gym at 5 a.m. on weekdays and teaches group fitness classes ranging from Zumba to yoga. The crew also offers SilverSneakers, a program designed to encourage physical and social activity for older adults or people who have trouble working out in ruby slippers.
Carolina Dance Capital is a family affair. Husband and wife duo Fritz and Annette Schulte own the studio along with their daughter, Nina, who serves as artistic director. The rest of the staff includes eight regular dance instructors and more than 15 guest teachers and choreographers. In a variety of classes, they help students as young as two and as old as whatever to get fit and express themselves through ballet, jazz, tap, yoga, and Zumba.
Class sizes are kept small to encourage close personal attention and a supportive atmosphere. Six studios occupy the 8,700 square foot facility, and each is outfitted with observation windows, spring-loaded floors to prevent injury, and Super Soakers to facilitate Gene Kelly impressions. In addition to classes, pupils of all abilities can partake in cheer camps, workshops, and competitive dance teams. A waiting area for parents is equipped with complimentary WiFi.
Certified professional photographer Gene Taylor has fine-tuned his artistic vision while working in photojournalism and portrait photography for more than 30 years. During classes at Your Photo Safari, Gene introduces students to the photographic arts and the workings of DSLR cameras. Sessions begin in classroom settings, allowing students to get acquainted with camera basics as well as advanced features such as setting white balance and reducing blur. After learning how to navigate the multiple settings and buttons on their digital cameras, students traipse to area gardens to explore the natural world through their lenses. The hands-on experience allows students to take home artfully composed shots of plants bathed in natural light or trees planking over riverbanks in a bid for Internet fame.
The instructors at Paint Party Royal Oak invite guests to "uncork" their inner artist at their bright and cheerful studio. Guests are encouraged bring their own wine and refreshments to snack on during a fun three-hour BYOB adult painting class. With a local artist at the helm, students of all experience levels learn how to create the day's featured painting using artist-quality medium body acrylic paint. In addition to the paint, Paint Party Royal Oak also provides guests with their own 16"x"20" canvas, an easel, brushes, an apron, corkscrew, and ample room for socializing between brush strokes.