When Henry Harvey went to the University of Houston in 1975, he realized the dance moves he'd picked up at high school in Fort Worth were more valuable than he thought. In fact, he gave lessons to new people in the area who wanted to fit in on the dance floor. Years later, his wife decided they should start dancing together. "I went to dance class and found out they were doing the same things I was 10 years before," he said. Taking stock of his management abilities and previous dance experience, he realized he had the opportunity to be successful, so he brushed up his skills and founded High Steppers Dance Troupe LLC in 2007.
At locations throughout the area, Harvey and his team of instructors teach the hot urban Houston two-step, as well as swing-out dancing. The dances are set to cool urban R&B tunes and neo-soul grooves and help participants release the seductive strut or smooth swagger they've kept bottled up. Instead of duct taping themselves to a good dancer in the club and letting them do all the work, students can be confident in their ability to finally know what they're doing on the dance floor.
Harvey claims that his students, many of who are aged 40 and older, come not only for the improved skills that come from dancing for two hours, but also for the atmosphere, which he calls "very upbeat and very festive." His dance classes can also act as a stress reliever after a long day at work. "They get into dance class and they're rejuvenated," Harvey says.
In addition to dance lessons, the group takes charter buses on regional trips and hosts two to three showcases per year, where students regale audiences with a synchronized dance routine. At their social dances, a DJ spins tunes as students get the chance to put their lessons into practice and leave behind their days of doing the worm shyly on the dance-floor sidelines.
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.
For Brandie, owner of Sassy Steps Stiletto Fitness, there’s nothing more seductive than getting into shape. Plus, she says, “laughter, smiles, giggles, and lots of blushing” doesn’t hurt either. In her private studio, she leads a master class in the finer points of flirtation. Her introductory stiletto fitness classes teach women to draw out feminine wiles through dance moves that often incorporate props, such as chairs, canes, and, of course, high-heel shoes. All the while, students shed calories, tone their leg and abs, and, most importantly, build up confidence with every sashay. The classes are almost tailor-made to ensure a memorable bachelorette party or girls’ night out, and Brandie also takes students under her wing in one-on-one private sessions.
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.
Anthony Lewis, a championship-level dancer and owner of Ballroom Houston, believes that a technically sound dance lesson is useless if it's not practical. That's why he and his team of instructors do all they can to get students eager to hit the dance floor and thrive in social situations. During private and group lessons, students of all skill levels and backgrounds explore the graceful, rhythmic steps of the waltz, swing, and salsa, or learn how to fool a lawn into growing faster by doing the Sprinkler. The instructors at Ballroom Houston focus on all forms of partnered dancing, and are always training and refining their curriculum.
Traci Greene began learning dance at age 6, and now she's come full circle, serving as the dance instructor at Edgar Allan Poe Elementary School. When she's not teaching there, the former internationally touring dancer is running her own school, The Houston Dance Lab. At a spacious studio equipped with locker rooms and a parent lounge, students ranging from 3-year-olds to adults gather to learn classic styles such as the Vaganova ballet technique, as well as jazz and hip-hop routines. Students aged 6–17 can also show off their skills on the performance dance team, which has performed at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts and the Houston Children's Festival, among other places.