A Dancer’s Guide to Houston

April 8, 2024

The Houston dance community is as big and sprawling as the city itself.

Houston, the fourth-largest city in the U.S., is recognized as more ethnically diverse than most cities of similar size. Its dance scene reflects that size and diversity, with a range of companies, schools, and choreographers.

Most Houstonians divide the city into “inside the Loop” and “outside the Loop,” the Loop being Loop 610, the innermost circle of the freeway system. Most (though not all) performances are inside the Loop, but there are many studios outside the Loop that provide opportunities for dancers and educators as well. 

Here’s a list of Houston’s dance offerings.


6 Degrees: Artistic director and choreographer Toni Leago Valle is a Houston native and a lecturer at the University of Houston. Her work is often personal and/or political, with a touch of whimsy. Her most recent shows have increasingly incorporated aerial choreography. 6degreesdance.org

Ad Deum Dance Company: Randall Flinn’s Christian-based contemporary-dance company presents work in Houston but also tours internationally. They travel to festivals, sacred and secular, to present work and have seasonal training intensives as well as open classes. addeumdance.org

Group Acorde: Dancer-choreographers Roberta Paixao Cortes and Lindsey McGill have teamed up with musicians Seth Paynter and Thomas Helton to create an environment where music and dance are created in collaboration. All are veterans of the Houston dance scene, but the company is relatively new, presenting both tightly choreographed and highly improvisational programs. groupacorde.org 

Houston Ballet: The internationally recognized company keeps a busy schedule of classic story ballets and historic revivals as well as contemporary works by artistic director Stanton Welch and guest choreographers. By far the largest dance company in the city, Houston Ballet is a crown jewel of Texas dance. houstonballet.org

Houston Contemporary Dance Company: Founding artistic and executive director Marlana Doyle directs HCDC as a repertory dance company, introducing Houston audiences to nationally recognized choreographers. There’s also a pre-professional youth company, HC2, and the Institute of Contemporary Dance, which holds classes for movers of all ages. houstoncontemporary.org

Indian Performing Arts, Samskriti: Houston has a thriving classical Indian dance community, in no small part due to the pioneering work of Dr. Rathna Kumar. From her central belief in the universality of all art, Dr. Kumar creates new dance works with an eye for expanding the classical vocabulary by collaborating with artists of other disciplines. samskritihouston.org

Dancers of Samskriti at Barnstorm Dance Festival 2018. Photo by Lynn Lane, courtesy Samskriti.

Ishida Dance: Despite starting a contemporary dance theater company in 2019, just before the pandemic, accomplished dancer and choreographer Brett Ishida has managed to propel her company into the limelight, drawing national attention to her brand of poetic, thought-provoking dance. ishidadance.org

Karen Stokes Dance: Karen Stokes’ dance roots run deep in Houston as the daughter of a dancer-choreographer and longtime educator at the University of Houston. Her work often relies on deep research, making shows few and far between but always an event. karenstokesdance.org

Michele Brangwen Dance and Music Ensemble: This well-established company emphasizes original music and collaboration. Live music is prioritized, with the musicians an integral part of the show. In addition to live performances, the company also makes dance films. brangwendance.org 

Nia’s Daughters Movement Collective: Founder Stacey Allen’s focus is on Black women and girls, telling intergenerational stories of their lives. Allen recently started work on a project to restage overlooked work by Black women choreographers. Nia (Swahili for “purpose”) engages African and modern techniques in their original works. staceyallencde.com

NobleMotion Dance: Andy and Dionne Noble, artistic directors, often incorporate technology into their highly athletic choreography as well as experiment with musical and technical artists in the Houston area. They’ve taken work to festivals far and near, and even to TV. Explore their summer and winter training intensives and pre-professional company, NMD2.  noblemotiondance.com

Open Dance Project: Annie Arnoult’s inspirations from history and literature lead to narrative, immersive work, in which the audience is invited to move among the dancers. This group of inventive dancers also keeps a busy schedule of children’s dance theater. opendanceproject.org

Pilot Dance Project: One of the more prolific producers of contemporary dance in Houston, artistic director Adam Castañeda produces his own and others’ choreography in both traditional and site-specific settings. Additionally, PDP produces the occasional festival, designed to showcase new and independent performers. pilotdanceproject.org

Silambam Houston: This organization promotes classical Indian dance and music through performance and outreach to preserve the traditions for the next generation. Founder Dr. Lavanya Rajagopalan holds a PhD in biochemistry, which she still teaches. Science and dance sometimes meet, either in the theater or in the university classroom. silambamhouston.org

Social Movement Contemporary Dance Theater: Elijah Alhadji Gibson, artistic director, pushes SMCDT to explore the edges of social divisions through dance, believing in the power of shared stories to bring people together. Audiences will experience work that uses contemporary, jazz, and hip-hop styles to these ends. socialmovementdance.com

Urban Souls: Artistic director Harrison Guy uses contemporary dance to advance equity among all people through the lens of the Black experience in this self-described “social arts organization”. Their performances, classes, and community building efforts have earned the company an enthusiastic and loyal audience. urbansouls.org

Vitacca Ballet: Under the direction of Kelly Ann Vitacca, this company aims to present contemporary ballet that engages audiences intellectually and aesthetically. It’s also active as a teaching studio, nurturing new dancers and building community. vitaccaballet.org

NobleMotion dancers Tyler Orcutt, Jacob Regan, and Lauren Serrano. Photo by Lynn Lane, courtesy NobleMotion Dance.


Houston Community College: The Associate in Arts degree offers studies in ballet, modern, and jazz styles. The Midtown campus is within easy access of many performance venues. hccs.edu

Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts: A part of the Houston Independent School District, PVA (as it’s often called) offers pre-professional training in multiple styles of dance, with classes in dance photography and history, as well. houstonisd.org/hspva

Sam Houston State University: While in Huntsville, SHSU has deep connections with the Houston dance community. Faculty are also professionals in the area, and students access many opportunities for performance and choreography in Houston. BFA and MFA degrees offered. shsu.edu

San Jacinto College: A community college on the southeast end of greater Houston, San Jac offers an Associate of Arts in dance, with opportunities (like the annual Artists for Hope benefit concert) to network with many companies across southeast Texas. sanjac.edu

University of Houston: Offering a BFA, a BA, a dance minor, and teaching certification in secondary education, UH also offers production opportunities within the greater community. uh.edu

University of St. Thomas: This BA in dance in a Roman Catholic environment is the newest academic dance program in Houston. Ballet, modern, and world dance are central to the curriculum. stthom.edu


DiverseWorks: DW is a regular producer of dance events but uses venues around Houston. The contemporary avant-garde is its focus, and dance artists from far and near may be presented. Artist residencies (not exclusively for dancers) are offered. diverseworks.org

Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston (MATCH): A complex of four theaters of varying sizes (MATCH boxes) hosts music, theater, and dance from a number of producing entities in Houston. MATCH Box 2 is configured specifically for dance, but MATCH Box 1 and 3 are also regularly used, depending upon the producers’ needs. matchouston.org

Miller Outdoor Theatre: Situated in historic Hermann Park, this outdoor venue seats 1,700 in covered seating, with room for more than 4,000 on the hillside. Events are always free (covered seating is ticketed). Miller presents both local and touring groups. milleroutdoortheatre.com

Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University: This carefully curated space may present evening-length programs in their theater or guest artists performing within an installation in the gallery. moody.rice.edu

Performing Arts Houston: This nonprofit specializes in bringing in national touring companies (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is a regular) but also presents local artists, particularly (though not exclusively) through its New/Now Commissioning Project. performingartshouston.org

Wortham Theater Center: Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera are resident companies of this grand theater complex in the heart of downtown, but is also the site for seeing local and touring companies. visithoustontexas.com/theater/venues/wortham-center

Zilkha Hall at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts: This venue is popular among midsize to larger local companies. It seats 500 on two levels, giving every audience member a great view of the proscenium stage. thehobbycenter.org


M. Gabriela Estrada: An assistant professor of dance at the University of Houston, Dr. Estrada’s academic work brings ballet and flamenco into conversation, which gets reflected in her own choreography. gabriela-estrada.com

Rivkah French: Deeply focused on the queer experience, French makes challenging dances for both the stage and specific sites, as well as the occasional dance for film. rivkahfrenchchoreography.carrd.co

Loren Holmes: Not only a choreographer but also a filmmaker, Holmes creates deeply personal narratives that reach beyond the specifics of her life. Instagram: renmarie_

Ashley Horn: Even when confronting difficult topics, Horn’s choreography often has a sense of wonder and whimsy. She also makes costumes for other companies. Instagram: ashleyhorndance_and_design

Kalpana Subbarao: Making dance in the traditions of kathak and bharatanatyam forms of classical Indian dance, Subbarao also collaborates with other dance forms, most notably flamenco. kalpanasubbarao.wordpress.com

Open Dance Project ensemble members in “Panopticon” directed by Annie Arnoult at MATCH- Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston, March 2019. Photo by Lynn Lane, courtesy Open Dance Project.


Barnstorm Dance Fest: Produced by Dance Source Houston, this annual festival is an opportunity for Houston audiences to get a sampling of a broad range of dance styles. Ballet, modern, jazz, tap, classical Indian, and more, are all represented. Master classes and dance-on-film components fill out a busy week. The focus is on Houston, but there are always groups from out of town on the bill. dancesourcehouston.org/barnstorm-dance-fest

[See also: Pilot Dance Project and Frame Dance Productions]


Ballet Center of Houston: A northwest-Houston location for training, Ballet Center of Houston focuses on very young through pre-professional students, with some outreach into local schools. Classes in modern and jazz styles are also available. balletcenterofhouston.com

Bayou City Ballet School: One of the newer ballet academies, Bayou offers classes for toddlers to adults. There are pre-professional and professional classes, as well as offerings for adults who have never taken ballet. bayoucityballet.com

Claire School of Dance: Roxanne Claire’s studios (there are two locations in the Heights) focuses on small classes and individual attention. Ballet classes follow the American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum. Students regularly advance to larger schools. Modern, tap, and other forms are also taught. Independent choreographers often rent studio space here for rehearsals. clairedance.com

Frame Dance Productions: Lydia Hance’s vision for her studio is that people of all ages, sizes, and abilities can dance and are welcome within a variety of offerings. Frame Dance also has a professional company, often producing site-specific work everywhere from parks to parking lots, and produces the annual Frame X Frame Film festival. framedance.org

Hope Stone Inc.: Jane Weiner’s Hope Project does not have a studio, but it takes its curriculum into schools and elder-care facilities, impacting hundreds of students all over the city. Teaching artists receive specialized training. In addition to dance, other art forms are taught in what Weiner calls “mindful arts education.” hopestoneinc.org

Houston Academy of Dance/West University Dance Center: These two studios are both directed by Evelyn Ireton and caters to the serious as well as the casual dance enthusiast. Ballet is central to the curriculum, but classes in tap, jazz, contemporary, and hip hop are also available. chasingperfectiondance.com 

Houston Ballet Academy: Houston Ballet’s beautiful downtown headquarters is the place for the serious ballet student. At first glance, the emphasis is on children and youth, but there are adult classes, from beginner to professional. houstonballet.org/academy/

Houston Met Dance: Located in the Museum District, this well-established studio offers dance classes for beginners to professionals, children to adults. It also has an outreach program, partnering with a handful of elementary schools. metdance.org

Hunter Dance Center: This active studio offers classes for all ages and levels in an array of styles: ballet, modern, hip hop, aerial, Pilates, and more. hunterdancecenter.com

Soreal Dance Studio: This studio on Houston’s far west side focuses on hip hop and heels styles, with a varied team of instructors on the schedule. sorealdancestudio.com

Soundbox Studios: A great site for the latest styles from hip hop to K-pop. The building offers five studios of varying sizes, which are available for rental. soundbox-studios.com

Uptown Dance Centre: Ballet is the focus in this studio, with levels available from 3-year-olds to adults. The Centre also has a performance group, Uptown Dance Company. Both are run by dancer and choreographer Beth Gulledge-Brown. uptowndance.org


Dance Source Houston: The one institution that every dancer in Houston needs to know is Dance Source Houston, an artist service organization. Besides maintaining membership lists for companies, choreographers, and studios, it provides production opportunities (the annual Barnstorm Fest and the more frequent Mind the Gap presentations), health resources, funding, and professional development. dancesourcehouston.org

Houston Arts Alliance: HAA is not a dance-specific organization, but dance is one of the art forms it funds. Besides grant resources, it offers disaster-preparation resources and other important info for the Houston artist. It is a government organization, overseen by the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. houstonartsalliance.com