Call it the latest dance craze.

Except this time it's the waltz, the tango and the rumba, among other traditional dance forms.

A resurgence in classical dance is crowding the floors of local studios, likely thanks in part to the seemingly endless stream of dance-themed reality TV shows and a spate of recent movies (think "Dance With Me," "Take the Lead" and the recently released "Step Up").

And at least a few local dance studios are reaping the benefits of the exposure, especially 3rd Street Dance and Hollywood Dance Center, which are the used for rehearsal and filming of the shows.

"The big difference in all of this (exposure) is that it encourages younger participants," said Hollywood Dance owner Pamela Phillips, who thinks the trend will continue. "The real impact will be a year or so down the road, since it takes some time to sink in. People will think about it, see more dance or another show and the longer it stays around, it's on their mind."

There's no arguing the Nielsen-rated popularity of the televised twirling and dipping:

Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" held the number-one ranking for its Wednesday time slot last year. The Fox show was just renewed for a third season. And ABC's "Dancing with the Stars, which aired earlier in the summer, claimed and held in the top spot for its Tuesday airings for the summer 2005 TV season.

"So You Think You Can Dance" judge Mary Murphy, a longtime choreographer who owns a San Diego ballroom dance academy, said that ratings aside, an anecdotal popularity barometer is the number of people who now regard dancing as a legitimate career.

"I used to tell people I was a ballroom dancer and they always thought I said bar-room dancer, so they would ask me what bar I worked at," Murphy said, laughing. "Then it was, 'OK, but what do you really do for a living?' Now people realize you can actually make a good living from teaching ballroom dance."

Of course, the increased interest may not be entirely due to the Tinseltown treatment: Local professionals said that traditional dance styles such as ballroom and tango have been on the rise for almost a decade, and cited large, lavish weddings that have become standard in recent years as a source of big business.

On average, private ballroom lessons can range from $60 to $100 an hour and a series of classes is about $175, while single group class drop-ins start at about $15 and go up from there.

Peri Judith, owner of 3rd Street, said she'd seen an approximate 30 percent increase in clientele and studio rentals over the last decade; Phillips cited 40 percent or more growth. Both said much of their business is largely derived from private studio rentals by groups or teachers who offer their own lessons.

Still the owners noted that the shows have sparked a lot of local interest. "People recognize the studio from the street because of the arched windows, and will always want to walk up for a look around," said Judith. "We've gotten a lot of recognition because both shows are so popular."

Classes in three of Judith's studios were full on a Tuesday night, with couples twinkling and promenading in a ballroom class, while others perfected barridas and cortes in the Argentine tango studio.

Keith Mabry, a 35-year-old Culver City resident who learned ballroom dance about 10 years ago, said his interest in tango was re-kindled after he watched the first season of "Dancing with the Stars."

"I've seen a lot more couples that I did in the past, particularly at the social dance practices," Mabry said. "You can make a lot of new friends, and it's a very interesting dance subculture."

The question remains, though, if the business can maintain the boost should the shows' popularity decline, which the studio owners believe they can.

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