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.
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.
Eccentric Fitness' experienced and passionate instructors help clients of all fitness and skill levels boost their self-esteem and diminish their waistlines with pole-dance, yoga, and dance classes. Learning flirty choreographed strip-tease routines, guests saunter atop the studio's hardwood dance floors accented by black and purple walls. Ladies leap onto poles to tighten their upper and lower bodies with spin techniques, or annihilate calories shimmying to hip-hop dance numbers. Reaching beyond the body to the mind and spirit, Eccentric’s instructors lead guests through a variety of yoga classes, including those with a focus on flexibility, men's yoga, and moves to strengthen the muscles used for pole dancing or impersonating your favorite letter of the alphabet.
While teaching jazz dance in the 1960s, Judi Sheppard Missett decided to step away from tradition by offering an experimental class that allowed her students to simply dance without the judgment of mirrors or the constraints of rigid technique. In these sessions, she began infusing popular dance moves with specific fitness workouts to forge a distinctive blend of cardio exercise, strength training, and dance instruction. Little did she know that this “just for fun” class was the prototype for what would become the national fitness sensation known as Jazzercise.
Today, Jazzercise takes its aerobic techniques from a variety of sources that include jazz dance, hip-hop, resistance training, Pilates, yoga, and kickboxing. The class formats, which vary according to different toning goals, are just as diverse as the program's move set. Two-time Dancing with the Stars champion Cheryl Burke is a big fan of the improvisational routines, although her advanced skills aren't needed to get the most out of classes. Instructors cultivate a noncompetitive atmosphere where all exercisers—with the exception of those marked as cursed by jazz-hand palm readers—are welcome regardless of age, build, or fitness background.
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.