Happy Hoofers

Who's on the roof? Dasher, Blitzen, Prancer . . . and Dancer.

You don't have to be Richard Gere or Jennifer Lopez in Shall We Dance to think that dancing might be a great gift for someone you know. A gift certificate or class card to a local studio will fit in any stocking (or tap shoe, for that matter) and prove that you're a thoughtful and innovative giver. Here are some ideas for the movers and shakers on your list.

Bottom Heavy Funk

The monetary facts of life being what they are, many dancers in town teach classes to make ends meet, so you can study with someone you've admired onstage and maybe get a taste of what their style feels like on your body. Choreographer Amy O'Neal has made fiendishly difficult dancing for some of Seattle's trickiest performers, but she says her "Bottom Heavy Funk" class at Velocity Dance Center "brings in a lot of people who have never danced before and are too intimidated by ballet and modern dance. . . . The choreography I teach satisfies anyone's dreams of dancing in a music video." Five-class card for $45. Velocity Dance Center, 915 E. Pine St., second floor, 206-325-8773; www.velocitydancecenter.org.

Getting Some Ginger Snap

Latin dances are hot right now, and salsa is one of the hottest. There's something in the rhythm that automatically makes your hips sway, and the transition between turning sequences and close dancing is a heart-stopping moment to see or to do. Swing dance has a different flavor with a bouncier, more athletic feel, but the exhilaration of dancing with a partner, of really hitting the beat and moving together, is the same. The Century Ballroom has a great setup for both salsa and swing, with a cast of award- winning teachers in a gorgeous venue. If you sigh when you watch the nightclub scenes in all those old movies, the "lesson and dance" combination at the Century will make you feel just like Fred or Ginger. Five-week session for $55, dance parties extra. Century Ballroom, 915 E. Pine St., second floor, 206-324-7263; www.centuryballroom.com.

Brazilian Martial Art

As we get ready for "George W. Bush, Act II," you might be looking for a subversive activity, and capoeira could be a perfect fit. A combination of dance and self-defense, this Brazilian style was created by African slaves. Forbidden by their Portuguese overseers to practice fighting, they disguised their training as dancing, passing off their sparring as "friendly competition." Today the dance style is more cooperative than combative, but the sweeping legs and lively gymnastics are a reminder of its origins. At Dance Underground on Capitol Hill, Grupo Axé Capoeira teaches a dynamic version of the work for people who aren't afraid to be upside down once in a while. One month of unlimited classes for $85. Dance Underground, 340 15th Ave. E., 206-909-0376; www.axeseattle.com.

First Tango In Seattle

Between Broadway shows like Forever Tango and the recent explosion of cabaret and club acts, tango has escaped its "Hernando's Hideaway" stereotype and lost the rose clenched in its teeth to become a symbol of intimacy and romance. Although it lends itself to detailed and nuanced performances with arms and legs intertwined, at its heart tango is simply a walking dance, which makes it a great choice for a beginning dancer. This could be the perfect gift for someone you're hoping to spend Valentine's Day with in 2005. Ilana Rubin and Tony Fan are one of the hottest tango couples in town, but they are also excellent teachers and their Absolute Beginner's classes are just that: They cover the fundamentals of the dance and build up to more complex patterns. You don't have to come with a partner, but it would make a nice gift for two. Eight-week session for $70. Greenwood Senior Activity Center, 525 N. 85th St., 206-328-1500; www.seattletango.com.

Always On Tap

It may sound corny, but tap dance is almost guaranteed to put "pep in your step"; and if you need a gift for someone who taps their toe under the table, a session of real-life hoofing could be exactly right. Cheryl Johnson and Anthony Peters, who are onstage this month in their Tap Dance Christmas Carol, have a national reputation as performers, and their students have gone on to perform with the likes of Savion Glover. They also teach a great beginners class at their Green Lake studio, breaking down traditional steps like the shim sham for the coordinated and the klutzy alike. Fourteen-week session for $150. Johnson and Peters Tap Dance Studio, 6600 First Ave. N.E., 206-729-7620; www.tapdanceseattle.com.

Bath House Smorsgasbord

Not sure exactly what style of dancing your loved one would like best? Or maybe you just want to let them chose. Pick a studio that offers a wide variety of classes and skilled teaching staff. Classes at the Madrona Dance Center, which is also the home of Spectrum Dance Theater, cover the basics like ballet, modern, and jazz, but they also offer a smorsgasbord of other styles, such as African and hip-hop. The mission of the company and the school is "to make dance accessible—without limitation—to the community," and that goal is reflected in the friendly nature of their classes. Several of the teachers are longtime favorites in the dance community, and the location, in a converted Lake Washington bath house, is one of the most beautiful in the city. Seven-week session for $60–$70. Madrona Dance Center, 800 Lake Washington Blvd., 206-325-4161; www.spectrumdance.org.

skurtz@seattleweekly.com

 
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