Beyond Ballet: Alternative Dance Classes for Beginners

Are your little twinkle-toe dancers ready to trip the light fantastic but aren’t so into ballet? Back away from the tutu and let them try their hand (or foot) at the following studios that offer beginner lessons in other styles of dance, including ballroom, Irish dance, contemporary, hip hop, jazz, hula and lyrical.

Polaris Dance

Photo: Polaris Dance Theatre, credit Nick Fochtman via Facebook page


Polaris Dance Theatre
Ages five and up

Aerial fabric and a trapeze hang from the rafters in this super spacious studio. Despite its size, the place still feels warm and welcoming. In the beginner aerial dance class, kids climb, swing, spin and learn balance techniques and tricks using the fabric and trapeze apparatus. In the contemporary dance classes, teachers use the Horton technique, which incorporates modern techniques to stretch and strengthen the body. In hip hop, they focus on  integrating musicality and rhythm awareness. Polaris firmly believes that everybody can dance. There’s a lobby adjacent to the dance area for parents to wait, though they sometimes peek in from the doorway to observe, but they are mostly kept out of the room so that there are fewer distractions for the dancers.

1501 SW Taylor St.

Hula Dancing Girl

Photo: Hula Hālau ‘Ohana Holo‘oko‘a via Facebook page


Hula Hālau ‘Ohana Holo‘oko‘a
Ages three and up

Literally translated the name means, School of Hula Where Everyone is Welcome. This studio, devoted to preserving hula dance offers beginning hula classes for children, known as keiki, in 12-week sessions. The children must be able to participate in class by themselves, which involve the basic hula dance steps and hand gestures, as well as learning Hawaiian language and songs during circle time.

The school will offer a free children’s hula trial class on Sunday, September 21. Registration for the class is required and participants must arrive by 2:30 p.m.  The school is also offering a free Tahitian trial class the same day for ages six and up.

The Spot Studio Fitness

5597 SW Arctic Dr. (Beginning in October, the school will be moving to 12570 SW Farmington Rd.)

Ballroom Dance Company

Photo: The Ballroom Dance Company


The Ballroom Dance Company
Ages six to 12

The 50-minute Kids Introduction to Ballroom class teaches little steppers the basic core ballroom dance steps, as well as the basics of partner dancing. There’s also the Kids Elementary Dance Class with DanceWell Ballroom for kiddos that focuses on shedding shyness, building confidence and improving coordination, social skills, teamwork and musicality together while learning to dance. The dance space is light, airy and elegant with chandeliers and a disco ball hanging from the ceiling. It also has a large ballroom floor – the only competition-sized floor in the northwest.

8900 SW Commercial St.

Westside Dance and Gymnastics Academy
Ages three and up
The jazz classes offered at the academy increase a tiny one’s flexibility and emphasize kicks, turns, leaps and how to follow choreography, making it a great precursor to theater, dance teams and cheerleading. The academy also has hip hop with age-appropriate music and dance moves, as well as classes featuring a combo of ballet, tap and jazz, prepping kids for performing or competing locally.

11632 SW Pacific Hwy.


Irish Dance

Photo: Livin on a Reel via Creative Commons


Yeates Academy of Irish Dance
Ages five and up

Little girls with springy Celtic curls come to mind when most people think of Irish dance, but boys are also drawn to this unique style of dance, too. Home to the Molly Malone Irish Dancers, the academy offers Irish dance classes steeped in rich cultural tradition with instructors who have been dancing since they were tiny tots themselves. The school also has a parent waiting room with Wi-Fi, a sink, tables, chairs, books, a microwave and fridge, a snack area and a play area for younger siblings. The parents have a viewing area from the waiting room into the studio as well as windows to the outside world. Parking is fairly easy and there’s a bicycle rack for dancers and parents who cycle to the studio.

4231 N. Interstate Ave.

BodyVox Dance Camp

Photo: BodyVox, credit David Krebs

Pearl District

Ages five and up

Little Hip Hop for kids focuses on hip hop techniques, isolations and freestyle in a super high-energy environment. There are also lyrical jazz classes, which teach kiddos the foundations of this complex style that incorporates Latin, modern, ballet and jazz and emphasizes getting a lower center of gravity and syncopating movements to really feel the music from the inside out.

1201 NW 17th Ave.


Deborah Messinger’s School of Dance
Ages three and up
This studio offers a nurturing environment and a wide variety of classes for those tiny toes, like Tap and Hip Hop.The Funky Jazz/Jr. Hip Hop class isn’t actually associated with jazz style of dancing, but more of a foundation for basic dance moves set to popular radio tunes. Cheerdance, a combo of cheerleading and dance, is available for mini cheerios. They also offer Boys Only dance classes including hip hop, break dancing, tap and tumbling.

584 NE Burnside


Where do you take your little dancer? Tell us in the Comments section below!

— Suzie Ridgway




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