Lisa Zahiya’s dance career has taken her all over the world, but it might be the work she’s doing in her hometown she finds the to be the most rewarding. At her studio, she teaches her students how to express themselves through dance with a curriculum that hinges on belly-dancing classes. Zahiya, who was named 2008 Tribal Fusion Belly Dancer of the Universe at the Wiggles of the West belly-dance competition, offers both traditional and cardio-heavy versions of the core-chiseling style. Though she helms a majority of the studio’s classes—which also include Bollywood-style dance, hip-hop, world-dance workouts, and kids’ belly dance—Zahiya enlists instructor Teejei Brigham to teach tribal dance. All classes welcome beginners, since Zahiya believes that dance is an art form that everyone—including the rare few with pogo sticks for legs—can enjoy.
Director Mary-Taylor Land has walked the stage in several shoes. From learning as a student and pirouetting as a performer, she went on to judge and teach routines. Away from the theater, she researched dance through different technical lenses, bringing her expertise to seminars for both the artistic and medical communities. The breadth of her knowledge enabled her to find seasoned instructors for her studio, all of whom have received college and professional training.
Today, she and her team strive to instill passion and discipline for the practice of dance in children of all ages. Beginning with preschool classes such as Mommy and Me, they hone a basic understanding of rhythm so that parents don't have to recite a four-count as they rock their cribs. Their older students can choose styles from a wide curriculum, which covers ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop, and acro as well as combination lessons. Throughout each class, the teachers devote personal attention to their protégés. They can help to prep youngsters before academy recitals and competitive ensemble auditions, or simply foster a deeper appreciation for grace and art.
Within the colorful walls of the Academy for the Performing Arts' 10,000-square-foot facility, enthusiastic instructors instill confidence in the leaders and creative thinkers of tomorrow. Kids benefit from small class sizes and a high teacher-to-student ratio during dance classes such as tap, ballet, hip-hop, and cheerleading, or half-day preschool programs that incorporate dance, music, and visual art. Kids aged 2–4 fine-tune their gross motor and social skills while older children can prepare for recitals or become members of the center's dance company.
The academy also keeps parents in shape with adult fitness classes such as boot-camp sessions led by a personal trainer or high-energy Zumba workouts. The crew hosts children during a bimonthly parents' night out that allows adults to take some well-deserved time for themselves and finally engage in a critical debate of Kung Fu Panda.
Arthur Murray 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. 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.