By Jodi Mailander Farrell
So you think you can dance?
You’ll never truly know until you’ve tried salsa in Miami, shagged in Tampa Bay and waltzed in West Palm Beach at one of these dance schools in Florida.
One of the best ways to explore the state's diverse places is to boogie woogie with their people. Dance is a universal language that conveys more about a place’s culture in a single hip thrust than a traveler’s guide can deliver in 100 pages.
These dance studios in Florida welcome short-term visitors. They’re eager to teach you their moves. Here’s where to hustle with the best of them.
1. Salsa in Miami
Salsa clubs are a fun way to explore Florida’s most Latin city, and Salsa Kings Dance Studios has multiple locations to help you find your eight-count rhythm in Cuban. One-hour classes spend part of the time divided into levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced), so you never have to feel overwhelmed or bored. Instructors are certified by the World Salsa Federation; group and private lessons are available. One group lesson is $10. Classes are offered at Florida International University, 1600 SW 107 Ave., in Miami, and IronFlower Fitness gym at 7300 Biscayne Blvd., also in Miami, with two new locations in South Miami and Florida City opening soon.
Info: 888.40.SALSA, www.kingsdancealliance.com.
2. Bachata in Orlando
Bachata is an Afro-Latino genre of music and dance that originated in the Dominican Republic in the early 20th Century with African descendants in rural areas. Simple yet sensuous, it’s an eight-beat dance, similar to salsa. Orlando, which has seen its Hispanic population grow from just 4 percent in 1980 to more than 25 percent in 2010, now has one of the largest Dominican communities in the state, along with Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Bahhari Dance Center, 8865 Commodity Circle, in Orlando, is the hot spot to learn how, with classes averaging 35 to 50 students at a time, led by two teachers. No need to bring a partner; students rotate around the room so everyone gets the opportunity to dance together. A single class is $10.
3. Line Dancing in Davie
Cowboy town. That’s Davie, where the rodeo is the center of life, the mayor is a former barrel racer and it’s not unusual to see residents riding around on their horses. If you want to dance with the locals, get in line. Learn how at Round Up, one of the area’s best dance clubs and country bars at 9020 W. State Road 84, where there are free line dancing lessons for urban cowboys Wednesday through Sunday. (There’s a $5 cover charge at the door for ages 21 and older). Boot Scootin’ Boogie beginners are welcome.
Info: 954-423-1990, www.roundupnightclub.com.
4. Ballroom Dancing in Palm Beach
American Smooth, International Standard, the Viennese Waltz and Quickstep – all the elegant moves can be found in classic Palm Beach County, home to the Annual Palm Beach Dance Challenge, held every October. You can practice your own moves for “Dancing With the Stars” at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio. This dance school in Florida, at 4603 Okeechobee Blvd. in West Palm Beach offers private lessons, group sessions and “practice parties.” Two sessions are $20.
Info: 561-478-1400, www.fredastaire.com.
5. Swing Lessons in the Tampa Bay Area
Swing dance came at us out of the jazz age in the 1920s, with African-American communities delivering the Lindy Hop, which fuses jazz, tap and Charleston, and white communities bringing us the Foxtrot and the Balboa. Every major city has its own style. Discover Tampa’s West Coast Swing at Gulfport Casino Swing Night. The retro-era, waterfront ballroom, at 5500 Shore Blvd. South, in Gulfport, near St. Petersburg, offers one-hour swing dance lessons at 6 p.m. before the party starts at 7 p.m. most Wednesdays. Admission is $7; no partner needed
Info: 813-840-3715, www.swingtime.info.
6. Beach Bop in Jacksonville
Beach Bop is a laid-back, southern adaptation of the old Jitterbug that they call Shag in the Carolinas, Lindy in the North and Whip or Push in the Mid-West. All of the dances have similar eight-count steps to six beats of music. In Jacksonville, the music of choice is "Beach Music" or R&B, the kind produced by black musicians and found in jukeboxes at the beach in the 1950s. The 300-member Florida Boppers dance club here has been bopping together since 1989. The club hosts parties on the second Saturday of every month at Club Savoy, 6354 Arlington Rd., from 8 p.m. to midnight. You can also find them dancing there most Thursday and Friday nights. Door fee is $10 for non-members.
Info: 904-215-1613, http://clubsavoyatjax.com.
7. Square Dancing in Merritt Island
Allemande left and do-si-do on your way to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, and meet up with the Space Trackers Square Dance Club, which meets most Thursdays at the Merritt Island Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall, 155 Cone Road. The group offers square dance lessons at 6:30 p.m. prior to its 8 p.m. dance.
8. Tango in Hollywood
More than 45 percent of the people in this South Florida city are Hispanic. You can find evidence of Hollywood’s Argentina community at local bakeries, restaurants, markets – and at the International Club of Argentine Tango of South Florida, which hosts one-hour dance lessons followed by a tango party, “Buenos Aires Milonga,” every Sunday night. The lessons and party, along with a dinner buffet, are held at 7 p.m. at the Italian-American Club, 700 S. Dixie Hwy. Admission is $15. Men and women of all ages, nationalities and ethnicities pour into the banquet hall to learn and practice their Argentine tango, which has a different rhythmic pattern from American tango, with couples dancing cheek-to-cheek and chest-to-chest.
Info: 305-345-3662, www.citango.com.
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