Dance Tonight co-owner Jeremy Norris knows his students. "When it comes down to it, everyone really dances for one reason: to have fun," he states on his school’s website. Co-owner Emily Loyless and their staff of fellow NDCA-registered instructors share his sentiment. In addition to teaching salsa, west coast swing, and country dancing, their dance studio turns into a ballroom dance party on Friday nights where students practice moves from their lessons. Norris and company also schedule Zumba dance fitness classes, whose calorie burn far exceeds that of completing 100 Macarenas.
Absolute Ballroom’s knowledgeable instructors specialize in a wide variety of dance styles, catering to terpsichorean newbies during 45-minute introductory classes. Absolute Ballroom’s certified and trained teachers pride themselves on unearthing a student’s missing right foot, believing that dancing can be taught to anyone, regardless of a lack of rhythm or a fevered insistence that the floor is made of lava. Dancers can learn the basic steps of several social dances under the watchful gaze of a private instructor, alternating between the wistful glides of the waltz or the elusive woodland rhythms of the foxtrot. Students can also master the over-the-shoulder saltation of swing, rumba’s mellifluous hip movements, or how to properly chomp a rose for tango.
The Bijou’s origins stretch back through American history, but it didn’t become a theater until relatively recently: 1908. For nearly a century prior to its dramaturgical reinvention, the building was a high-class hotel that housed high-ranking military commanders, influential civic leaders, and even President Andrew Jackson for a spell in 1819. When General Ambrose Burnside took the town of Knoxville during the Civil War, the hotel was converted into a hospital, makeshift war room, and oil-wrestling arena for Generals William Sherman and Phil Sheridan. The latter portion of the 19th century showed the building more favor, and during the lavish 1870s another president—Rutherford B. Hayes—paid call, and delivered a speech from the hotel’s balcony.
The early 1900s saw the hotel’s biggest renovation to date when it was purchased and upgraded by the Auditorium Company. The newly rechristened Bijou Theatre opened to a sellout crowd, and was a major outlet for vaudeville from 1913 to 1926. Hard times began to pile up soon afterward, and the lapsed theater would have been demolished in 1975 were it not for its eleventh-hour listing on the National Historic Record. Since its most recent renovation in 2006, the stage has hosted pop stars and musical blockbusters.
Music Instruction Studio's university-educated teachers dispense harmonious how-tos during music lessons for students 6 years and older. Offering instruction in pop, jazz, and classical styles, the instructors equip vocalists with belting skills, teach pianists masterful ivory tickling, and inspiring guitarist. Music Instruction Studio stocks its interior with instruments as well as an entire library of sheet music that students can purchase at an additional cost; pupils may also rent out equipment for at-home practice. After stepping up their skills, students can draw on MIS's extensive music studio to showcase newfound abilities and hair-metal power slides during semiannual recitals at no additional charge.
Vaudeville Cafe's two-hour, family-friendly murder mystery dinner shows pack in an evening of mock murders and an all-you-can-eat Italian dinner. In between interrogating suspects and identifying the perpetrator, investigate culinary culprits including baked ziti, pasta primavera, Italian meatballs, mac 'n' cheese, or Mediterranean salad, all followed by a generous slice of double-chocolate fudge cake. Each of the comic murder mysteries begins with a murder, after which a detective will arrive on the scene to work with audience members to identify the perpetrator. Since Vaudeville Cafe's interactive performances rely on audience participation to solve the case, imaginary police standby to arrest lifeless audiences for accessory to show-murder. Four different shows are featured each week.