Laeral Dance Academy works with dancers of all ages and abilities to hone the energy of restless feet into graceful and artistic movements. Inside a naturally lit studio adorned with wall-size mirrors, a coalition of professional instructors—many of whom have been dancing since the age of 3—train students in the fine art of stylishly stamping out floor fires during classes ranging from classical ballet to hip-hop. Ballet classes for students between 2 and 7 will focus on the Melody Bear method, which helps develop concentration and motor skills by integrating fun dance movements with shapes, counting, stories, and music. Tykes can also develop their jazz and tap abilities, finally enabling Morse code communication with downstairs neighbors. In addition to children's ankle workouts, Laeral Dance Academy hosts adult dance and fitness classes, including a calorie-scorching salsa aerobics class.
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 the Latin Dance Factory, Christian Franco Gutierrez teaches students rather than a set of rigid moves. A native of Peru, Gutierrez emphasizes the importance of personal flair when dancing?but he also emphasizes the importance of repetition. Instead of teaching entire routines to beginners, he builds their dance repertoires with simple drills, ensuring that his footloose charges master the basic steps of their chosen style.
The studio's dance styles run the gamut from salsa and merengue to cumbia and kizomba. The lesson formats are similarly eclectic. Students can hone their skills in hour-long group lessons, four-hour intensives, or private lessons. For a more social atmosphere, newly minted two-steppers can practice at "date nights," candlelit dance lessons with wine and cheese spreads.
Barefoot students sway to the music, moving their arms rhythmically, punctuating the flow every so often with martial-arts-style punches and kicks across the sprung wood floor. The low-impact, low-pressure practice nourishes the body, mind, and spirit alike—as co-owner Helen Tracy told Great Day Houston, “I fell in love with my body through Nia.” The instructors at NiaMoves specialize in Nia’s aerobic workouts, in addition to an eclectic assortment of other group fitness classes. The instructors lead students in everything from body-stretching and mind-calming yoga sessions to aerobic hoop-dance workouts. Many of the classes are holistically refreshing, including the healing drum-and-dance-circle sessions, which begin with a tension-relieving meditation session. Instructor Emilia then leads students in expressing themselves through movement and thumping drum beats, both of which are effective during most job interviews.
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. Clients who arrive to lessons partnerless will be paired up with other classmates as the instructors assess their current skill level and make recommendations on the most appropriate program. 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.
It's not easy to take over for a guy like Allen Darnel, a 55-year ballroom-dance veteran who taught celebrities such as Zsa Zsa Gabor and Aldous Huxley. But now W. Michael Smith and Enrique Baez-Trevino are cutting in on the recently retired Beginners Only Social Ballroom & Latin Dance Studio founder's waltz, and they have impressive resum?s of their own to brandish. Baez-Trevino has studied under prominent trainers since he was 13, and Smith has trained in both theater and broadcasting, a background he believes helps him give clear instructions to his students. These two masters lead 45-minute private lessons for individuals, couples, and groups of up to 10, sharing their knowledge of swing, salsa, and the tango in private rooms. The schedule is unusually flexible, with lessons available until 10 p.m. on Monday through Saturday.