Starting at age four, Michelle Larson dedicated herself to Irish dance, quickly ascending the ranks from regional to world championship-level dancing. But at 21, hungry for a change of pace, she focused her energy on interior design. It didn't take long, however, for the rhythmic patter of soft shoes to lure her back like a siren song, and in 1990 she founded the Painter Larson Academy of Irish Dance. Here, she trains children in Irish dance fundamentals, such as foot placement and timing, before teaching basic dances such as the light jig. Michelle's adult students learn these skills, too, as well as group dances that culminate in a traditional Irish dogpile.
Fullerton Dancesport Center owner Stuart Cole has made a career out of dancing with style. His long list of achievements and gigs include Scottish amateur ten-dance champion, US National Team representative to the World Championships, and film dancer in Dance with Me and Heaven’s Gate. So it is with this illustrious background that Stuart works with his team of instructors to bring their personal flair to dance lessons for students of all skill levels.
Whether in social groups or private sessions, students can dance seven days a week with a schedule of classes that range from the Latin-inspired salsa and cha cha to the more homegrown country line dancing and West Coast Swing. Wedding dance lessons help bride and groom glide across the floor or bowling lane during their first dance, while youth classes for dancers ages four and up impart basic ballroom and Latin dance techniques along with rhythm and posture. For a more sweat-inducing workout, Zumba fitness classes blend the dance styles taught in Latin lessons with energetic music.
La Sole's International Performing Arts Academy's instructors educate graceful gallopers and ham-footed hoofers alike in the Spanish and Middle Eastern dance traditions. Owner Yvetta Garcia "La Sole," an award-winning dancer, instructor, and choreographer hailing from Andalusía, Spain, oversees a plethora of paw-popping classes. Fine-tune rhythmic hand-clapping, dramatic skirt-twirling, and non-lewd shadow-puppeteering with a flamenco class or brush up on posture, technique, and castanet skills in the Castanets & Classical class, which combines instrumental instruction with classic Spanish choreography. Check La Sole's schedule for a current list of classes.
Shesha Marvin was nervous as he gazed out on the dance floor, certain that his pounding heart could even be heard over the booming music. He had always been uneasy on his feet, choosing to lurk by the punch bowl at parties rather than asking girls for a dance—but now, at last, was a chance to overcome his fear. He took a deep breath and stepped out onto the floor, where he was immediately swept away in a rush of lively beats and glimmering lights.
After than fateful night, Shesha was hooked. He began dancing six nights a week at local clubs and, eventually, in Disneyland shows, favoring the lindy-hop and swing styles. He traveled the world to compete in international championships, even performing live on Dancing with the Stars. Today, Shesha brings his years of passion and expertise to his own dance studio, Atomic Ballroom.
Atop the hardwood floors of his spacious studio, Shesha and his instructors lead students of all experience levels through the steps, twirls, and transitions of the East Coast swing, the American fox trot, and the Argentine tango. The instructors can even help couples choreograph a dance for their wedding while providing expert advice on how to sashay gracefully in heels or how to twirl the bride without destroying the reception hall with F5-level winds. Every night of the week, they host a group dance party—from Sunday night tango to Saturday night Ballroom, as well as host dance-infused workouts of Jazzercise and belly dance throughout the week.
The percussiveness of Latin and ballroom music resounds through Sonata Room, where founders and decorated dancers Laura Powell and Brandon Kwae lead private and group dance classes. A champion of the International Grand Ball Championships and Emerald Ball Dancesport Championships, Laura brings her hard-earned talent to the classroom, where she has trained up-and-coming dancers for 25 years. Watching a televised dance championship first spurred Brandon onto the dance floor, his quickly developed skills eventually placing him on the podium in competition. Together, the duo now patiently and technically break down each dance step for their students without using intimidating tactics, such as dancing with the time-out chair. Their spacious, dimly lit, and wood-floored studio also hosts occasional events, including bimonthly ballroom-dance parties.