History of Fred Astaire Dance Studios Through the Decades
Fred Astaire had helped, along with other influences, to awaken the public to the pleasures and benefits of better social dancing. It was the time of the “Big Bands” and couples on dance floors around the country danced to the romantic and lively music of the 30’s and 40’s as aspiring “Fred’s” or “Ginger’s.”
Recognizing the dancing need was a dedicated Fred Astaire fan, Charles L. Casanave, who at the time was a well-known motion picture executive. He had a dream of sharing Astaire’s gift with the American public and approached Mr. Astaire with his idea at a meeting in the Plaza Hotel in New
York City in 1946. These two dynamic personalities from different sides of the film industry stirred each other’s imagination to such an extent that before the meeting was over, a great new partnership had been formed. Fred Astaire was to bring his immense talent out of glamorous Hollywood onto the dance floors of America and the world. Fred Astaire Dance Studios® had been born.
Many still remember the excitement surrounding the opening of the first studio on Park Avenue in New York City in March, 1947. Presumably in early retirement from his film career, here was the famous Fred Astaire actually opening the first of a national chain of ballroom dance schools. A tremendous challenge was ahead. Would the public accept the idea?
In excess of $100,000 was spent in advertising for this first big event. Over many months while a decorator’s dream of a dance studio was being built, Fred Astaire himself made daily treks to a nearby rehearsal hall with many young teachers in tow and laid the foundation of the famed Fred Astaire method of ballroom dance instruction. Celebrities swarmed to see him during and after the opening. Such familiar faces of the time as his partner Vera Ellen, comedian Red Buttons,
Shirley Booth, Alan Hale, bandleaders Xavier Cugat and Paul Whiteman were seen coming and going. Astaire’s wife, Phyllis, was a constant companion, and he was even visited by one of his own idols, Irene Castle. It was a grand time and a significant start to a great dream.
Throughout the next decade, the beautiful training center at Park Avenue inspired the opening of many Fred Astaire studios across the country. Many of the original professionals instructed by Astaire himself, including then National Dance Director, John Monte, became studio executives and dance personalities in their own right. Studios thrived as thousands of thrilled students flocked to their doors, eager to learn the Fred Astaire method of dancing.
The early years saw other events bring the name of Fred Astaire Dance Studios® to the public’s attention, such as Astaire’s creation of the “Swing Trot,” the publication of the Fred Astaire Dance Book and the release of the Fred Astaire Dance Records through RCA-Camden. This new idea had met its challenge and the groundwork had been laid well, assuring a future for a dance chain inspired by a very famous pair of feet.
The Middle Years: Growth & Strength to the Early 1970’s
Following the passing of Charles L. Casanave, Sr. in 1958, his sons Charles L. Casanave, Jr. and Chester F. Casanave assumed the leadership of the Fred Astaire organization with Fred Astaire’s approval and blessing. Mr. Astaire, by this time, had already relinquished his stock in the Fred Astaire Dance Studios® Corporation and remained a consultant until 1967. From that time on he had no personal connection with the organization.
Motivated by their deep respect and love for the dance profession and seasoned by their association with the chain from its inception, Charles and Chester Casanave carefully developed their father’s original concept of utilizing Fred Astaire’s talent and transmitting it to the public through a network of franchised studios within Fred Astaire Dance Studios®. Shortly thereafter, they conceived a new idea that would revolutionize the dance profession – the Regional Franchise System. New “Master Licensors” became responsible for the supervision and development of their franchised territories. Among the most talented and successful businessmen in the dance profession, the Master Licensors played a key role in the expansion of the organization.
An important outgrowth of the new system was the creation of Fred Astaire Dance Studios®franchising system. Its members are the Master Licensors, the Affiliate Members are the authorized Fred Astaire Dance Studios® Franchisees and Fred Astaire Dance Studios® personnel are eligible to become Professional Members.
The middle years also gave birth to another concept developed by John Monte, our National Dance Director at that time, who was the artistic director of the official Fred Astaire Dance Studios®Curriculum. Mr. Monte hand-picked outstanding dancers and professionalsfrom the organization to form the Fred Astaire International Dance Council. These Dance Council Members were commissioned to work with regional and local Dance Directors, to conduct Dance Training Seminars, Examinations, and to actively coordinate the maintenance of the high dance standards established for the organization as a whole.
The subsequent rapid growth of Fred Astaire Dance Studios® and increased demand for professional services then led to the establishment of the Dance Service Department, a small group of superbly qualified dance specialists who were authorized to conduct training and examinations in all phases of the Fred Astaire Dance Studios® Steps and Styling on a nationwide basis.
The Later Years: Pride in Our Reputation
The 1970’s saw a fruition and continuation of the dedicated work of the earlier years. We had arrived at maturity having survived the growing pains of youth and adolescence. Our strength derives from the fact that we hold the name of a fabulous dance personality in our trade name, the most complete ballroom Curriculum in the world and the finest assembly of professionals.
Our greatest satisfaction however, comes from knowing that we have helped people, several million, to a more enjoyable life through dancing. We are proud of our distinguished students as we are proud of our accomplishments and reputation.
The late Charles L. Casanave’s vision has been realized by the establishment of a world-wide organization of Fred Astaire Dance Studios® located in almost every major city and many smaller communities within the United States, as well as in many other parts of the world. For almost half a century, our schools have produced a wealth of amateur and professional ballroom dancers who are a living embodiment of the Astaire style and approach – superb social dancing performed with ease, style and elegant grace, combined with a sound technical foundation.
By the continual development of better methods, patterns, programs, activities and techniques over the years, Fred Astaire Dance Studios® offers the most complete ballroom Curriculum in the world and the finest professionals, a well-organized franchise system, exciting national, regional, interregional, international and virtual activities, thus offering the highest possible standard of social and ballroom dancing, and the best dance schools in the world.
It is a tribute to the chain’s founder that his concept of perpetuating the master’s unmatched style has been so successfully realized by the dancers of Fred Astaire Dance Studios® today.
Today & Tomorrow
A new management team, comprised of the organizations most prominent Area Representatives, assumed control to guide the company and its Franchisees to an even more increased level of service, expansion and profitability. The likes of which have never been seen before in the dance business.
Their priority is to continue the company’s leadership role as the number one name in the dance industry. Shareholders were elected and a new president. Under her direction, the company introduced many new programs and companies that are now in full force.
Currently, Fred Astaire Dance Studios® operates hundreds of studios in the United States and abroad. Backed by a rich history of dance education and experience, the organization has embarked on expanding a campaign to franchise and open new studios all over the world under our national umbrella.
Our Area Representatives oversee the expanding operations on a state-by-state and international level. Our National Corporate Office is comprised of a team of experienced team members and executives; from legal, franchising, financial, branding & marketing, administrative to artistic directors for our International Dance Council. New standards of success are now being felt at all levels of the organization.
Recently, the company has launched a variety of platforms that are sure to propel each Fred Astaire Dance Studios® studio to great, long-term success!
Astaire Management Program (AMP)
Fred Astaire Access
Life’s Better When You Dance (LBWYD)
Fred Astaire Dance Studios® Dance Store Kiosk & eCommerce Site
The Fred Astaire Dance Studios® Organization
The long term plans call for the continuance of its expansion programs and acceleration of promotional and marketing activities, with a greater emphasis and focus on the further development, growth and training of every person who comes in contact with the company.
“By its very nature, the name Fred Astaire in dancing means a perpetual striving for that rare quality…perfection in teaching and service to our students. Let us re-dedicate ourselves today, and every day to that goal. As the years go by, we will then continue to build living monuments to our inspiration and ideal.” -Mr. Fred Astaire