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, in its 100th year of teaching, prepares students for rug cutting at special events and weekend jaunts in a fun setting that promotes learning, fun, self-confidence, and physical activity. Clients who arrive to lessons partnerless will be paired with an instructor, who will assess their current skill level and make recommendations on the most appropriate program. Throughout programs, instructors teach the foundations of two to four dances from a menu of 29 styles, including Latin and country western, helping students learn basic step patterns, timing, and the ability to lead or follow.
When she was 15, Heather had already been dancing for a decade, and she vowed to one day open her own studio. Later, while in school for interior design, she took her first-ever pole-dancing class and found it was love at first twirl; she installed a pole in her own home that very afternoon. Though she worked for a while as a professional designer, she felt compelled to step away from decorating other people's homes to pursue her teenage dream, swathing her newly opened studio space in hot-pink paint and floor-to-ceiling mirrors. Today, it's a go-to hub for novice dancers of all ages, sizes, and experience levels and for barber's poles looking to switch careers. While Heather and three other instructors teach belly dance, aerial technique, burlesque, and fitness classes, though Heather's main passion still lies with pole dancing. She finds it rewarding to watch as students—who currently include spinners in their 60s—break past mental blocks to do moves they never thought possible. She grins each time her students report that they're feeling stronger and healthier just doing everyday tasks, like buying anvils at the grocery store. "I don't feel like it's a job," she says, noting the supportive environment created by her students and the joyous bachelorette and birthday parties—where, she maintains, the older guests always turn out to be wilder than the 20-somethings. "It feels like I'm hanging out with friends."
When lifelong dancer Mary Rose Field discovered Zumba, she was an immediate convert. After earning her Zumba certification, she founded Studio Z Fitness and spread the fitness craze at a zealous pace, outgrowing her first studio in only two months. Today, she oversees two studios—Studio Z Fitness and Studio Z Fitness II—and grants members unfettered access to both locations.
On a daily basis, Mary and the studio's teaching team guide students through various types of Zumba workouts. Although sessions vary by style and instructor, they all involve fun, easy-to-follow dance moves set to the rhythm of Latin-inspired music. For two years running, Studio Z Fitness has topped the New Haven Readers' Poll as the best place to take Zumba and the worst place to build a house of cards.
At Encore Dance Academy, tiny feet pirouette and leap across a safety-sprung wood floor during a classic ballet class. That’s just one of the ways the instructors get bodies moving in dance classes for wee ones as young as 6 months to adults. The roster includes jazz, tap, hip-hop, and musical-theater dance forms, led by experienced instructors certified in CPR and first aid. They create an energetic and friendly atmosphere in which dancers of all ages can feel free to express themselves through movement. To carve out toned physiques, adults can groove to the Latin beats of Zumba, which includes free babysitting so parents can bust a move without duct-taping their child to their chest.
The dance center also hosts birthday parties and camps, come summertime, that encourage kids up to age 8 to step into the rolls of divas and rock stars while learning a dance step or two.
For more than 25 years, Kings Park Dance Center has taught hip-hop, ballet, tap, jazz, modern, and musical-theater classes to dancers of all ages. In addition to dance instruction, the studio offers voice lessons, drama classes, Zumba, and acrobatics classes that emphasize gymnastics floor skills. On occasion, dancers can attend studio-hosted masters classes taught by professional dancers and choreographers including Tyce Diorio, Stephen “Twitch” Boss, and Wade Robson.