Through the towering windows of In the Groove Studios, pedestrians catch glimpses of bodies swaying, stomping, and somersaulting across a spacious wooden dance floor. The downtown Oakland studio, founded by four Bay Area hip-hop artists who share a passion for dance, booms with thumping bass that energizes dance classes throughout the week. Pieces from local artists speckle the walls of their two-story pop-and-lock academy, where professional instructors—including the former artistic director for Culture Shock Oakland and the founder of Groove against the Machine—lead students of all experience levels in styles such as hip-hop, jazz funk, and contemporary. Other days, they conduct fitness-focused Zumba classes and weekly specialty workshops. In the Groove's two spacious dance floors are equipped with stereo sound systems and full-length mirrors, making the space ideal for hosting private functions or revealing to your roommate that you've shaved off his eyebrows before apologizing with a karaoke rendition of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.”
Whether contorting their muscular limbs around unforgiving poles or manipulating their bodies around fabric in midair, the studio's team of talented instructors demonstrates that pole dancing is no longer just for flirty firefighters and penguins. Within the mirrored practice space accented by splashes of lavender, patrons of all fitness levels learn impressive vertical tricks and choreography designed to build strength and flexibility. Colorful suspended silks allow students to reach new fitness heights both literally and metaphorically during aerial classes. Expanding its reach to the mind along with the body, Phoenix Aerial Art and Pole offers a slew of martial-arts classes, such as qi gong, xing yi, and yi chuan.
Arthur Murray Dance Studio has been a leading name in franchise dance since 1912, when the entrepreneur began selling mail-order dance lessons. Expanding his reach, he enlisted teachers to spread his signature dance lessons on first-class steamships and skyrocketed to fame in the '30s after introducing the public to such dances as the Lambeth Walk and the Big Apple. By the 1950s, Arthur and his wife, Kathryn, were hosting their own highly popular TV show on ABC, the Arthur Murray Dance Party, which ran for 12 years. Today, Arthur Murray's team prepares students for rug cutting at special events and weekend nightclub jaunts. Clients who arrive to lessons partnerless will be paired up with other classmates as the instructors assess their current skill level and make recommendations on the most appropriate program. Throughout lessons, instructors teach the foundations of two to four dances from a long list of styles that range from Latin to country-western, helping students to learn basic step patterns, timing, and the ability to lead or follow.