River Oaks School of Dancing strives to be accessible, build community


For Kimberly and Antonio Conde, becoming instructors at the River Oaks School of Dancing marked the beginning of their family.

“We met right here,” Kimberly said, pointing to the entryway of the dance studio on Shepherd Drive, “right in the front office when we were both instructors.”

Now, as a married couple with two daughters, the Condes are co-owners of the studio. When the previous owner sold it to them in 2009, the duo knew they wanted to maintain the family-run feel it had been known for since 1998.

“We’ve really become lifelong friends [with clients]because we have people that for 20 years are still coming regularly,” Kimberly said.

The classes, which teach many forms of partner dance, including ballroom, Latin and country western varieties, are taught privately between the instructor and either a couple or an individual. To encourage students to embrace their new skills, the Condes host regular group dances at the studio and arrange outings to Latin dance clubs, honky tonk bars and even karaoke bars.

“You can use it in the studio, but you can also go out and really dance in real life,” she said.

Some couples come to the River Oaks School of Dancing in preparation for their wedding; some come to pick up a new hobby; and others come to train to compete. Antonio takes new and experienced students to competitions, drawing on his experience as a competitive ballroom dancer in both Europe and the U.S.

Through the studio, dance traditions are passed on to students ranging from 25 to 80 years old. The success, Kimberly said, comes from their welcoming environment.

“Ballroom dancing was designed to be accessible for people of all ages, abilities and disabilities,” she said. “You really can accomplish something, and it’s something that you can enjoy at any age and at any level.”

River Oaks School of Dancing
2621 S. Shepherd Drive, Houston
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., by appointment only Sat., closed Sun.

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Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered health care and public education in Austin.
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