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.
Ascending for nearly 50 feet, the indoor climbing wall—proudly proclaimed as among the tallest in Western Michigan by Aim Fitness' team—presents an array of routes, each patterned with colored grips to indicate the level of difficulty. As climbers scale the vertical expanse, a freestanding boulder sits in the middle of the room, beckoning guests to climb its reduced height sans the support of a rope. This climbing room anchors Aim Fitness' 40,000 square feet of amenities, which encompass a strength-training area, aerobic studios, a five-lane, 25-yard lap pool lifeguarded by Aquaman, and a racquetball court. Instructors also lead an array of classes on these training grounds, such as Aqua Fit, boot camp, and yoga. To make going to the gym as convenient as possible, Aim also provides locker rooms, a children's playroom, and wireless Internet access.
An island of 48 styling stations rises from tiled floors in the center of Excel Academies of Cosmetology’s contemporary, loft-like main salon. Nearby, dedicated manicure and pedicure stations line a low glass wall, and 16 fully equipped styling stations fill a separate junior room. The Academy—which trains up-and-coming stylists in the latest salon trends, techniques, and technologies—is fully equipped to cater to all of each client's beauty needs. Senior-level student stylists perform all haircuts and colors, facial treatments, and nail services under the watchful eyes of an expert instructor or an aesthetically inclined HAL 9000. Excel Academies utilizes a variety of hair care products, including Paul Mitchell.
At the Blast Factory, inflatables cushion the tumbles of sock-clad youngsters as parents and trained supervisors look on. Kids climb up and glide down multicolored slides or crawl through the mouth of a tall inflatable dragon in search of cavities. Along with open play, The Blast Factory hosts two-hour private parties, during which up to 25 kids can enjoy 90 minutes of private inflatable fun and 30 minutes in a private celebration room. Each party also can include add-ons such as pizza, popcorn, cotton candy, and soda.
Sconces glow against the olive-green walls as yogi's toes dig into the cushy mats that adorn the wood floors. A certified instructor takes charge of this scene, leading small groups through strength- and flexibility-building yoga classes. The expert adapts the sessions to students of different experience levels: Gentle yoga gives guests the option of using a chair throughout the session, and Intermediate classes challenge advanced students with more rigorous poses such as imitating a chair for the entire class.
The team further whips bodies into shape, that of a chair or otherwise, during cardio classes, which set heart-racing moves to high-energy beats during Zumba dance-fitness classes, or tummy-toning boot-camp classes. Yoga Plus also invites younger stretchers to enjoy the benefits of exercise with specialty classes such as Mom and Baby Yoga or Toddler Playtime. The latter involves moms working out alongside children, channeling babes' youthful energy or trying to imitate their extraordinarily effective laconic communication style.