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.
What began as a small studio with five enthusiastic dance students has transformed into a full-fledged company that's educated thousands and won multiple awards along the way—including a Certificate of Congressional Recognition. Today, Strictly Street Salsa has a whole team of instructors that has danced its way across the likes of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Spain, and Rome and is ready to introduce students to new cultures through the art of dance. The studio offers classes for beginner, intermediate, and advanced dancers in both salsa and tango and hosts dance workshops that blend Latin dance with various cultural elements, including African movement, gypsy music, and good old-fashioned American screaming.
For Brandie, owner of Sassy Steps Stiletto Fitness, there’s nothing more seductive than getting into shape. Plus, she says, “laughter, smiles, giggles, and lots of blushing” doesn’t hurt either. In her private studio, she leads a master class in the finer points of flirtation. Her introductory stiletto fitness classes teach women to draw out feminine wiles through dance moves that often incorporate props, such as chairs, canes, and, of course, high-heel shoes. All the while, students shed calories, tone their leg and abs, and, most importantly, build up confidence with every sashay. The classes are almost tailor-made to ensure a memorable bachelorette party or girls’ night out, and Brandie also takes students under her wing in one-on-one private sessions.
Every class at Inner Me emphasizes empowerment for both men and women through physical confidence, coaxing sexy and strong from even the most lethargic body. Age, shape, weight, and barometric pressure have no bearing on your ability to heft, pirouette, or have fun. Ninety minutes of pole-dancing aerobics builds your abs and upper body through basic moves such as spins and inverts, while stiletto fit lets you unleash your inner dance diva (heels are optional). Urban kick boxing tones your core at a furious, focused pace for an hour, while hip-hop yoga allows you to build flexibility and tensile strength without harsh impact. One of the studio's more unusual classes, the hour-long piyolet mixes pilates, yoga, and ballet into a triumvirate of grace and strength. Sinuous belly dance centers its practitioners within themselves, gently toning and carving each person's body into serpine splendor, and you get to bring a scarf to class to tie around your waist. Inner Me will be adding other classes, including chair dancing, coreology, and boxing circuit training this month.
Paola Martinez fell in love with dance at the age of 13. She has devoted her life to studying and teaching others about the art ever since, training extensively in flamenco, ballet, hip hop, jazz, and salsa. Her primary educational endeavor, Houston Salsa Dancers, instructs visitors in salsa steps to share Latin and Afro-Caribbean culture. Martinez also hosts classes teaching hip hop, ballet, and Mexican folklorico dance, as well as summer camps that keep kids from having to foxtrot with the television.
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.