For the students of To The Pointe Performing Arts, no dance step is just a dance step. Because the school follows a holistic approach to learning dance, every step comes with a bounty of knowledge—its place in the style, its cultural origin, the muscle movements it requires, and the discipline required to master it. Whether they're 6-year-olds encountering their first tap shoes or high-school students refining their skills in Russian ballet technique, the team of experienced dance instructors make it their business to forge not only great dancers but educated citizens of the world. In addition to youth classes, the studio also offers DanceFit and tap classes for adult students.
In 1947, on New York City's Park Avenue, the first Fred Astaire Dance Studio—cofounded by the eponymous toe tapper himself—opened its doors to the public. More than six decades later, now boasting schools across North America, the dancing institution still adheres to the legendary Mr. Astaire's curriculum and instruction techniques.
Specializing in social ballroom and competitive dances, the schools' current consortium of professional instructors shepherds students of all ages and skill levels through dance lessons that span from classic ballroom and foxtrot romps to the modern steps of salsa, swing, or mambo. In addition to classes, the studio hosts social practice parties where up to 40 students hone newly acquired rug-cutting capabilities. As foot-charming music blares from the speakers, instructors work to cultivate a lively social setting where each guest can dance, mingle, and surgically correct their second left foot without fear of embarrassment.
Atlas Improv Company shows, which rely on audience participation and judging, draw everybody in the house into a night of innovative, unpredictable theater. Launched six years ago when the performers at Comedysportz Madison broke off to form a new company, Atlas is dedicated to exploring the boundaries of improv and then colonizing everything beyond those boundaries. The group's approach emphasizes storytelling over traditional improv rules and time limits, resulting in richer narratives, deeper character development, and a unique blend of traditional theater and modern improv, like a pizza topped with iPhones.
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 and demonstrations.
Mary Lee's encouraging pop-and-lock experts instill the passion of rhythm and dance in students ages 5 to adult through weekly hip-hop classes. Each 45-minute lesson begins with warm-up exercises that stretch out limbs to prevent participants from pulling muscles. Dancing protégés then take to the floor and glean tips on performing modern hip-hop maneuvers such as the glide, the harlem shake, and the properly grounded electric slide. Students must come appropriately dressed in clean sneakers—no street shoes—and comfortable dance clothes devoid of zippers and buckles. Class times vary depending on the dancer's age, so check Mary Lee's class schedule to find the most convenient class.
First Stage recently celebrated its 26th anniversary as a children's theater, producing professional productions and developing new plays. It has hosted 40 world premieres and worked with renowned artists and authors including Stephen Schwartz and Cornelia Funke.
Through its theater academy and education program, First Stage aims to inspire a love of learning amongst young people with active teaching tools and a curriculum that emphasizes imagination. The theater-in-education programs reach roughly 20,000 students every year through theater residencies and in-classroom workshops such as the Bully Ban workshop, which teaches students how to respect one another and prevent harassment through improvisational exercises. Schools can also partner with First Stage to bring the arts into their facilities with field trips, workshops, and arts-integrated teaching.