The consortium of professional instructors at Fred Astaire Dance Studio, 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.
The passionate professional instructors at Performing Arts Academy teach dancers of all ages and experience levels to wiggle waists, shimmy shoulders, and tap toes. From elegant limb-bending ballet to floor-stomping hip-hop, the academy fills a three-night-per-week schedule with a diverse selection of group lessons, placing students by age and ability. The 30-minute Tiny Tot Tumbling course allows rambunctious munchkins to hobnob with one another as they learn the art of somersaults, cartwheels, and fire-eating, while grown-ups undulate their trunks in the one-hour Adult Belly Dancing class. A half-hour of Irish dancing instruction encourages legs to kick and tap with the unbridled energy of a poltergeist on roller skates. Each dance class wraps with a year-end recital, enabling performers to gracefully gallivant across the stage and validate the year’s lessons.
Liz London experimented in college. After a K-12 career spent learning the likes of ballet and modern dance, she was ready for the harder stuff, and that’s when she fell in with the belly-dancing crowd. Eventually, the flirtation grew into a full-blown infatuation, and she started Memphis Raqs, a troupe of professional dancers. Still, Liz never gave up on her first loves, and Memphis Raqs couldn’t completely accommodate her dream of creating a modern-day salon for all types of dance traditions.
When she created MidSouth World Dance Center, she rounded up a crack-team of professional instructors—along with her belly-dancing troupe. The group includes a Brazilian-trained flamenco dancer, a choreographer, and a former Fly Girl. Together, they teach recreational world-dance classes for adults and children. Their evolving class schedule features salsa, hip-hop, belly dancing, tango, and hula hoop, and they continually add new dance styles as more and more people escape from that town in Footloose. Augmenting the international moves, the studios host kids' summer camps and children- and adult-themed parties.
In January 2012, Amanda Gonzales and Edgar Mendez—a former principal dancer and choreographer for the Los Rumberos dance company—founded Madison Dance Studio to share their love of rhythmic movement with all ages. The duo and their team of talented instructors lead classes, including salsa and hip-hop, atop of a wood floor illuminated by floating party lights. In addition to helming belly-dance sessions, they channel Latin-inspired dance moves and global party beats in Zumba fitness classes. Amanda encourages ladies to confidently express themselves on club dance floors during her signature Hip Hop in Heels class.
After all hips have been shimmied and snaked according to U.S. government standards, students and instructors can rest atop the cushy sectional sofa while admiring the sky-blue chevron murals, which add a modern vibe to the room's exposed brick.
At Salsa Memphis, renowned dancer and choreographer Edgar "TunTun" Mendez leads each lesson, deploying skills he attained through years of dancing as a professional, performing onstage with Tito Puente and onscreen for Marc Anthony, as well as in salsa congresses and competitions. Within his airy, yellow-walled studio, Mendez shows students of all ages and ability levels how to perform a range of fast-paced, seductive salsa moves, beginning with basic steps, right and left turns, and cross-body leads. Intermediate and advanced lessons are designed for those ready to move on to more complex combinations, such as how to dip a partner in an airplane aisle. A private lesson bestows fledgling dancers with focused one-on-one time with the salsa professor for quicker learning and personalized tips. Lessons can be taken at the student's convenience, allowing dancers to learn on their own time as opposed to adhering to a weekly schedule.
At Blue Suede Ballroom, a team of world-class dance instructors helps to guide students across dance floors with Latin and ballroom techniques including salsa, swing, and tango. During three tiers of group lessons, instructors use repetition to encode the muscle memory dancers need to move gracefully while conversing or reciting pi to 100 places. The individual attention of private lessons allows students to learn at their own pace as they explore unfamiliar techniques or work out the kinks in their favorite maneuvers. Students as young as 10 may take lessons at the studio, developing moves that can wow their peers at school dances without resorting to shooting soda from their noses.
Blue Suede Ballroom regularly hosts open dance parties, venues for showing off techniques learned in American rhythm, American smooth, international Latin, and international standard classes.