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.
At Valley Forge Dance students learn dance techniques and skills during classes and workshops—but they'll also benefit from the extensive dance experience of owner Maria Jacobs. A lifelong dancer, Jacobs has performed in The Nutcracker more than 60 times and studied dance in London, Denmark, and Russia. At her interactive school, she leads fledgling ballerinas, tap dancers, and non-destructive break dancers through dynamic classes, helping them build confidence, strength, and agility.
Najia has inspired audiences with her sensual Middle Eastern dance in Egypt and Jordan, as well as in restaurants, nightclubs, and Pearl Jam’s preshow. Building her diverse dancing resumé, she pilgrimages to the Middle East for two or three months each year to continue researching dances, garner inspiration for her Philadelphia Bellydance company, and make her passport more colorful. She calls upon all of her twirling know-how to lead series of four weekly classes, in which students learn to shimmy, hip drop, and send veils fluttering through the air or weave together basic moves for complex choreography. On the fifth week after class sessions, students meet for a confidence-inspiring Goddess Night that awakens inner beauty through dance workshops, vegan treats, and performances as guests mingle bedecked in veils, gems, and outer adornment.
If there is a major dance competition out there, Scott Lazarov has probably placed in it. Along with gracing the cover of Philadelphia Magazine and performing at the Academy of Music, the founder of DanceSport Academy has won four US and World Pro-Am championships and was named champion of US Salsa, Rising Star, and Grand National championships. At DanceSport, Scott and his fellow instructors teach dance as both a social outlet and a competitive art form, and break down complicated styles into simple steps. Private and group classes teach a foundation of balance, posture, and timing that can then be mapped onto styles as varied as mambo, swing, merengue, or the Viennese waltz. Serious students can also gear up for competitions through a comprehensive training approach that addresses choreography, costuming, and production of the oversized foam fingers given out to the judges.
Jazzercise is 60 minutes of cardio, strength training, and stretching that incorporates moves from hip-hop, yoga, Pilates, jazz dance, kickboxing, and resistance training with handheld weights. Dancing with the Stars multiple-champion Cheryl Burke is a big fan of Jazzercise's improvisational workouts, though luckily you won't need her dance moves to get the most out of your class. If you're prone to first-class jitters, though, you can review the basic moves online before you go. Expect to burn up to 500 calories with each go-round.