Darlin Garcia, the first-place finisher at the 2010 and 2011 Philadelphia SalsaFest, founded Art In Motion Dance Academy to provide a world-class environment in which dancers could form a community built around excellence and teamwork. Home to the Art In Motion Latin Dancers dance team, a squad that has traveled around the world to teach and compete, the academy also offers dance classes to outside students.
Pupils learn salsa, mambo, merengue, and any number of other Latin dance styles under the tutelage of trained and friendly instructors. Men, women, or mannequins with a strong sense of rhythm can also participate in Zumba sessions, which blend elements of Latin dance with exercise routines.
For Maria de Sousa, tango dancing was part of her Argentinian heritage. She embraced the style as a way to reconnect with her native country, and traveled back and forth between her American home and Buenos Aires to master her steps. Conversely, for Pierre Baston, his passion for tango began as a foreign fascination. He watched a dinner show while visiting Buenos Aires that enraptured him, inspiring him to immerse himself not only in dance lessons, but historical and cultural research—he still collects authentic tango sheet music from the early 20th century. Both dancers became certified through a master's program at the Escuela Argentina de Tango in Buenos Aires, and now elucidate the art of dipping and spinning at eight Philadelphia locales.
Maria and Pierre walk students of all experience levels through tango's passionate choreography. They host group classes for social learning experiences, and lead private seminars at their studios or a venue of the client's choice. Because they coordinate all the necessary partner match-ups and music, their protégés needn't bring a companion or play Keep Away with a violin's bow to make it whine.
Drawing from diverse backgrounds in choreography, sports, and dance, the instructors at MasterJay Moves Dance Studios and Philly Premier Pole Dance lead a schedule of coed classes for dancers of all skill levels. The team helps participants to exude allure while practicing Spider-Man impressions on 20 shining poles or hip shaking along to Latin rhythms. Whereas classes impart new skills, private parties allow students and their friends to practice striptease and sensual pole movements in a low-pressure environment so they can celebrate engagements or figure out how to entrance local volunteer firefighters.
As a lifelong dancer and fitness enthusiast, Jillian Dreusike always looked for ways to extract elements from her dance training and present them in the context of a total-body fitness class. In 2010, she founded bodyLogic to do just that, mixing ballet-based choreography with barre work and the use of resistance bands to create an original fitness system. On her website she’s quoted as saying, "You only get one body, so be sure you know how to work it the right way." She embraces this philosophy in every class, keeping group sizes to 10 or fewer students in order to provide personal attention for each participant. She ensures that her charges perform each movement in the healthiest way possible, reinforcing the way the body naturally works, to build muscle and endurance—such as keeping the spine straight when standing or keeping the pinky lifted when pretending to drink.
After honing her dance skills through more than a decade of performance, choreographer Reagan Wilson—aka "The Luvely Rae"—decided to branch out. Since she was already in good shape anyway, she decided to share that fitness with everyone by devising her own workout plan. Dubbed Fit, Fab & Sexy, the workouts blend moves from burlesque, musical theatre, and cabaret into a routine designed to build confidence and empower women to express themselves through dance. Rae shimmies, and struts, students through her process at the New York City-based Fit and Fab Studios.
Here, during private and group classes, Rae's team of experienced and CPR-certified dance instructors helps students explore their sensual side and discover if they have any hidden joints. The beginner-level class, Burlesque Virgins, introduces students to basic walks, dance moves, and classic burlesque techniques such as the reveal. More advanced lessons include the cabaret choreography-based Broadway Sassy and the six-week, performance-focused Burlesque Conservatory. Many classes incorporate playful props including gloves, feather boas, and chairs. In addition to their weekly classes at Fit and Fab's New York City studios, instructors also lead special workshops at cities across the East Coast.
Urban Defense Center founder Master Lawrence Whitaker developed his studio’s signature self-defense program to arm students with practical-minded moves that prepare them for dangerous street situations. Students learn to spar, take down an opponent, defend against weapons, and escape from the shadow of a suspicious-looking skyscraper. Students also train their gray matter, pre-empting potential legal repercussions for defending themselves by studying concepts such as reasonable grounds and probable cause. Alternatively, Tai-Fit sessions shuttle through a series of punches, knees, blocks, and kicks with the goal not of emulating a fight but of torching calories instead. Fighters can pursue either track with a personal trainer who pays closer attention to form and technique than a beauty contestant does during the Simon Says portion of the pageant.