As strobe lights slice across the stage, masked dancers descend from scaffolding and undulate to Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance.” Minutes later, a troupe of 6-year-olds takes to the same stage in traditional Indian shalwar, or loose trousers, and launch into a frenetic dance set to fast-paced bhangra music. These divergent routines—performed at Mona Khan Company’s student showcase—hint at the scope of dance styles that instructors bring to their classes. Though traditional folk and classical South Asian dance make an appearance, instructors also incorporate styles such as salsa, modern, and hip-hop.
This Bollywood dance philosophy has propelled Mona Khan Company into the national spotlight. The company’s professional dance troupe has performed with Bollywood demigod Shah Rukh Khan and dancer Shaan, and dazzled a live audience on America’s Got Talent.
Though classes at Mona Khan Company occasionally lead to professional dance careers, the studio strives to make Bollywood dance accessible to every aspiring dancer. For example, Jollywood dance classes train performers age 65 and older, and the Jeena program trains special-needs students. “It’s more than just dance,” says Ms. Shankar, the company’s dance captain. “We try to build a whole community around it."
When the climbers of Planet Granite say that community anchors everything they do, they have a history of outreach to back it up. After Castle Rock State Park appeared on California’s closure list, Planet Granite’s team quickly organized a fundraiser to save the sanctuary. They pledged $10,000 in matching funds, threw an auction, scheduled guest speakers, and obtained support from companies such as REI. In one night, they raised $20,725.
This kind of response has typified Planet Granite’s team since opening its first facility in 1994. One of the first climbing gyms in the country, Planet Granite has expanded to four locations in Belmont, San Francisco, and Sunnyvale and Portland. The diverse array of climbing resources at each location led Popsugar to name the gym conglomerate one of the top five in San Francisco in 2011. At the San Francisco location, members scale 25,000 square feet of climbable surfaces that ascend from top out bouldering to 50-foot walls.
In keeping with their commitment to community, the staff tailors instruction and climbing routes to every ability level and affinity for hand sweatiness. They also supervise each gyms’ fully equipped fitness centers, including yoga, which provides a peaceful counterbalance to the full-body workout of rock climbing.
Before moving to the United States to be with her husband, founder Shaira Bhan applied her lifelong experience in Bollywood dance—along with the jazz, ballet, and contemporary training she received in London—to supply choreography for films including Dhoom and Namastey London. Once settled in California, Bhan launched Dance Identity to offset the scarcity of studios supplying structured, progressive curriculums in multiple dance styles. She and her team help students to improve their health and build confidence through numerous creative classes, ranging from Bollywood DanceFuze—a blend of Bollywood, hip-hop, jazz, funk, contemporary, and Bhangra techniques—to club salsa, a class that teaches students timing, footwork, and how to spin without dropping any cilantro. When not at Dance Identity, Bhan hosts NDTV Good Times' health and wellness show, Bodylicious.
Weak bodies are whittled into lean, muscular fighting machines as instructors at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) teach the martial arts styles used for UFC competition, self-defense, and overall conditioning. Men, women, and kids train in the company of students such as professional fighter Cain Velasquez and instructor Daniel Cormier, a former Olympian. AKA splits its MMA, jujitsu, and muay thai kickboxing classes among four facilities, with group-training sessions and private professional sessions taking place in modern training studios with heavy bags, speed bags, and Olympic-grade mats. The Hillside location also features a professional-size ring for sparring or marriage-proposal practice, and the two-story AKA headquarters on Realm Avenue highlights an MMA cage, TRX suspension room, and cardio theater stocked with StairMasters and Jacobs Ladder machines.
What services does your business offer and what makes your business stand out from the competition?
Uniquely tailored adult and kids classes.
Focus on fitness, skills development, and self improvement.
For adults, we feature weapons training, unique to Okinawan karate-do.
These programs help teach children self control, respect for themselves
sportsmanship, inner strength and bully proofing.
What's one tip for first-time students that will make them feel like veterans?
Lead instructor and senior students will make you feel welcome just follow along...
What was the inspiration to start or run this business?
Karate has helped me transform my life... I look to share this discovery with as many people as possible.
What do you love most about your job?
Seeing people improve and reach their goals.
The instructors at Waterworks Swim School believe anyone can learn to swim, no matter their age. This belief drives each instructor-led session, accommodating everyone from babies as young as 3 months old who are just getting acquainted with the water, to older children learning more advanced strokes and adults learning to swim for the first time. The instructors focus on teaching stroke techniques that utilize muscle memory and rhythms that are easy to grasp, while cultivating a fun, relaxed environment to help reduce students' anxiety. They lead private, semi-private, group, and Parent and Me lessons, all of which move at the pace of the swimmers' abilities. Beyond bestowing swimmers with efficient form, the lessons also help them stay safe in the water by teaching them how to control their breathing, reduce unnecessary movement, and stay completely still in the presence of pool krakens to avoid begin seen.