Swing Into the Ballroom Dancing Craze

Anthony Dominic
Dancers participate in a group samba class at Danceville U.S.A.

If you love ballroom dancing-or want to get into it-you're in the right city. Over the last 30 years, Columbus has grown into the ballroom-dancing mecca of the Midwest. In the late 1970s, dancer Sam Sodano of Arthur Murray Dance Studio of Columbus first organized The Ohio Star Ball, a dance-sport showcase that has since grown into the largest pro-am competition in the world (and has aired on PBS as "America's Ballroom Challenge," whose new season premieres April 24). Want to step up your dance game? Here are a few studios where you can get started.

DANCEVILLE U.S.A.

This sleek Short North studio opened in March 2014 under the direction of former U.S. National Professional Latin Champion Tony Meredith. Don't let that intimidate you, though. Danceville offers a little bit of everything: private lessons, group sessions, master classes and wedding choreography. Tickets for most offerings are available online. dancevilleusa.com

ARTHUR MURRAY DANCE STUDIO OF COLUMBUS

Since Arthur Murray opened his first studio nearly a century ago, hundreds of outposts have sprouted across the globe. The Clintonville location is noteworthy for being the birthplace of The Ohio Star Ball. If you're new to the studio, your first lesson is free. ohiodanceinc.com

FRED ASTAIRE COLUMBUS NORTHWEST

Want to take your footwork to the next level? Conquer Fred Astaire's advanced programs, in which you'll master tango, rumba, waltz, bolero and Viennese waltz. Beginners are encouraged to enroll in Newcomers Social group classes, which teach style fundamentals over the course of four sessions. fredastaire-columbusnw.com

EMERALD CITY BALLROOM DANCE CLUB

National award-winning dancer Jeff Stein leads this Dublin studio, home to one of the largest dance floors around. This is the place to go if you want to dance with no strings attached. Its popular Saturday night dance parties run 8 to 11 p.m., and salsa nights are 8:15 p.m. to midnight every Wednesday. emeraldcityballroom.com

SONG AND DANCE MAN

Tony Meredith picked the right year to move to Columbus. For the first time since 2009, PBS is bringing back "America's Ballroom Challenge," a multi-part series filmed at the annual Ohio Star Ball, the world's largest ballroom dance showcase, held last November at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Meredith, a former national professional Latin dance champion, co-hosted the series in 2006 and 2007 as well as last November (the broadcast will air April 24, May 1 and May 8) alongside longtime "So You Think You Can Dance" judge Mary Murphy.

"Expect to see the highest stylized form of partner dancing," Meredith says of the series. "Through the waltz, tangos, cha-chas, rumbas-just spellbinding, athletic showcases from top professional couples."

Meredith moved to Columbus early last year to become dance director at Danceville U.S.A., a new Short North dance studio. His 30-plus years in professional dance include performances in films such as "The Thomas Crown Affair" and "The Last Days of Disco," as well as choreographing for "So You Think You Can Dance."

"We're beginning to see such growth and warm reception of the community," Meredith says of Danceville. "People are coming out for lessons and realizing, whether they knew it or not, they always wanted to dance. It's wonderful." ohiostarball.com