Although the 24- to 28-member Houston Chamber Choir resists categorization, there may be one thing that defines the group: flexibility. Equally comfortable performing Bach's B minor mass with period instruments or singing along with Dave Brubeck and his quartet for an evening of choral jazz, it's no wonder Everett Evans of the Houston Chronicle dubbed the choir "one of the jewels of the city's cultural scene." And together they're a jewel that shares its sparkle with the world. The choir's concerts have spanned from the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City all the way to Wales while taking special care to promote the music of Texas composers.
The consortium of professional instructors at Fred Astaire Dance Studios, which was cofounded by the legendary toe tapper himself, shepherds students of all ages and skill levels through lessons that span the style spectrum. Low-pressure private sessions allow enthusiastic teachers to fine-tune individual students' techniques and form, using their expert eyes and mechanical dancing shoes preprogrammed to do the Charleston. Patrons can learn how to cavort through classic waltz and fox-trot romps or swivel through the modern steps of salsa, swing, or samba. For dancers hoping to hoof it up in a social setting, the group practice parties provide a one-night extravaganza of instruction, demonstrations, and amateur firewalking.
Owner Valerie Johnson leads a team of dynamic dance and fitness instructors dedicated to keeping bodies energized and elegant with classes ranging from ballet and pointe to hip-hop and tap. In addition to teaching feet the difference between tangos and two-steps, the studio’s instructors nurture tuneful talents with music lessons in disciplines including drum, guitar, piano, and voice. The 3,400-square-foot studio also hosts Kindermusik programs, which inspire creativity in toddlers with song, dance, and alphabet recitation set to the overture of Don Giovanni.
Pecos showcases three distinct pieces. With a specially commissioned score from Matthew Pierce, Stanton Welch's whimsical Pecos Bill is a folkloric romance between an idealized Texas cowboy and Sluefoot Sue, a perfectly matched sassy tomboy. Ballo della Regina is a bel-canto-esque set of variations created by Balanchine and set to music that was once cut from Verdi's Don Carlos. Enjoy brilliantly crafted movements and perfectly timed humor choreographed by dance superstar Mark Morris in Sandpaper Ballet, a performance that gleams amid green and white costumes designed by Isaac Mizrahi.
At Soundbox Studios, the human body is the preferred artistic medium. Owners and brothers Andrew and Duy Nguyen, along with Calvin Eata, have created an encouraging space that supports the Houston dance community. Skilled instructors oversee hip-hop classes for all levels, teaching basic moves and rhythm patterns that students will later modify and make their own as they progress through the curriculum. The Soundbox also sports their own sharply dressed crop of performance teams, including The Lady Rascals, Riot Squad, and Lunchbox, a preadolescent crew capable of breakdancing their ABCs.
Arthur Murray 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.