“Make a field goal with your hands,” says Alexa Krepps, dance instructor at Society Hill Dance Academy. Krepps had turned my simple photo assignment into an impromptu salsa lesson. I stand with my palms facing me, finger tips touching, and thumbs up like a field goal, and she grabs them. Soon we’re dancing, and surprisingly, I haven’t fumbled yet.
Every Thursday night, the Society Hill Dance Academy in Manayunk offers the same experience for other beginners with their dance parties.
“Tell me any other place in the world where you can walk in, take a girl by the hand and hold her in your arms on the dance floor?” says Society Hill Dance Academy owner Shana Vitoff. “It’s a fantasy.”
Vitoff opened her first dance academy by the same name in center city nine years ago. Three years ago, Vitoff opened a second location for her dance school in Manayunk. Aside from group lessons and private lessons, they offer dance parties on the Thursday nights in Manayunk for beginners that are open to the public for a $10 cover. The first private lesson at Society Hill Dance Academy is free, too, Vidoff says.
“It improves your posture, it gives you more self confidence, and it burns 370 calories an hour,” Vitoff says. In fact, Vitoff says, one of her students who joined and rarely exercised lost 40 pounds in one year.
Vitoff could be a match maker on the side. In her nine years of owning and operating the Society Hill Dance Academy, she’s had eleven weddings spring from students who met on the dance floor.
Learning to dance well with a partner is a social skill most people want to learn, says Michael Whitlock, the studio manager for the Manayunk location. But stepping into a class with people who have danced for years can be intimidating, Whitlock says, which explains why their dance parties have grown popular. “We started doing these dance parties once a month, then twice a month, and now it’s every week,” says Whitlock, who has worked at Society Hill Dance Academy for five years.
“Even if it’s just one thing, they’ll be learning the basics of salsa and ballroom dancing,” Whitlock says. And they’ll probably make a few friends too.
“We have some students who have made it a ritual to come to our Thursday dance party, and then stop by Bella’s afterward for dinner; they’ve been doing it for years,” says Vitoff.