Care to Dance?

Tony Meredith poses with student Cindi Parker. Photo by Lawrence Tabudlo

Tony Meredith invites the community to check out his new Aloha Ballroom Co. studio on Kapi‘olani Boulevard.

Ballroom dancing has taken Tony Meredith around the world — he’s particularly fond of his time in Japan performing and teaching at Nippon Budokan Hall — and time-traveling through the decades, swaying and twirling to tunes from years long passed all the way up to modern-day hits.

And now, the renowned professional ballroom dancer/choreographer and U.S. Professional Latin Champion is bringing his talents and expertise back home to Hawai‘i with the opening of his new boutique studio, Aloha Ballroom Co. (, which pays homage to Meredith’s Polynesian roots. (He was born in Samoa.)

“Growing up in Hawai‘i, I never imagined I’d be doing this,” explains Meredith, who attended Āliamanu Middle School.

He remembers dancing hula and Tahitian as a kid in a home constantly filled with music. It wasn’t until moving to California that he was introduced to partner dancing — specifically the hustle, which was big at the time. From the hustle, he explored cha-cha and samba, and quickly discovered he loved the competitive aspect of duo dancing.

“That’s what drew me, the sport of ballroom dancing,” Meredith recalls. “There was a chance at winning something.”

And win he did. Meredith represented the U.S. in 12 world championships, finally taking home top honors on his 13th try in 1993 in the Netherlands.

“Before that, I had been dancing for 15 years and I was in second place for 12 years before winning the championship,” he says. “Every year, I told myself, ‘I’m going to get it this year,’ and when I finally did, I was like, ‘Chee hu!’”

From there, Meredith continued dancing through life. He operated his own studio in New York for 15 years and served as dance director at Danceville U.S.A. in Columbus, Ohio. His acumen led to him becoming a sought-after instructor all over the world. But wherever he’d go to dance and teach, he found he acquired a bit of knowledge as well.

“I learned a lot from one of my coaches in the Netherlands, and I had one of my best experiences in Cuba learning Latin dances,” he says. “Every place has a difference essence about it.”

In Vienna he learned to formally stand, to dress properly in a tuxedo and ask a woman to dance with the appropriate mannerisms.

“Every culture dances,” he continues. “It’s so beautiful, and it’s different throughout the world, different forms and styles.”

He’s also had a hand in choreographing scenes for movies, notably Dance with Me starring Vanessa Williams, The Thomas Crown Affair with Rene Russo and Pierce Brosnan, Let It Be Me and The Last Days of Disco, and Broadway plays (his favorite was a Dirty Dancing project). He also co-hosted the PBS series America’s Ballroom Challenge. More recently, he and his former longtime dance partner, Melanie LaPatin, were guest choreographers on FOX’s dance competition reality show So You Think You Can Dance.

Meredith’s myriad accolades and lifetime of experience add to the allure of Aloha Ballroom Co., which specializes in a number of dance techniques like waltz and tango, as well as Latin styles (cha-cha, samba and rumba) and social club varieties like West Coast swing, salsa and bachata.

“And the hustle,” he adds. “It’s one of my favorites. That’s how I got started.

“There are so many benefits to dancing, but you don’t realize it because you’re having fun,” he adds. “It’s a total workout. It’s good for your memory and it physically keeps your heart in shape.

“It’s for everybody at every age, whether you just graduated high school, retired or getting married, or an empty-nester or you want to rekindle your relationship,” he continues. “They walk away with a feeling of satisfaction and confidence.”

Even the ones who tell Meredith they have two left feet come away strutting their stuff, thanks in part to Aloha Ballroom Co. and its cadre of National Dance Council of America-certified teachers.

His hope for the instructors and students is they forge partnerships that go beyond dance lessons and onto the big stage in the form of regular productions.

“Part of what we want to do is create showcases that involve the students and our professional teachers,” Meredith explains. “They’ll put together a whole show based on a theme, whether it’s ‘all about love’ or periods of time like the ’80s, ’70s or ’60s.”

Aloha Ballroom Co. has a current promotion for two 30-minute private lessons ($80), as a way to give ballroom dancing a whirl without any commitments. After that, regular classes and programming starts in August.

“I’m glad to be back home,” Meredith concludes. “Having traveled the world, this is where I want to settle down and share what I’ve learned across all these years. It feels so good to be back.”