By Kristina Houck
From Broadway to the silver screen, Fred Astaire’s moves left a lasting impact on the world of dance.
“The achievements he made, I think, are enough to fill three lifetimes,” said Julie Garibay, who owns Fred Astaire Dance Studio in San Diego with her husband, Nathan Garibay. “Carrying a name like Fred Astaire for a company is very motivating because you want to do right by the legacy he left.”
The late actor, dancer and singer co-founded Fred Astaire Dance Studios in 1947, which has since expanded to more than 150 franchises across the world. Named “Top Fred Astaire Dance Studio in the Area for 2013,” the San Diego location offers private lessons, group classes and practice parties for dance students of all ages and levels.
“We feel we have the number one system for teaching students in the world,” Julie Garibay said.
Although the couple has owned the studio for four years, the studio has offered lessons to area dancers for decades.
Two years after moving to San Diego from Central California, then 21-year-old Nathan Garibay started taking lessons at the studio. His girlfriend at the time worked as an instructor.
“I thought dancing was a little ridiculous, not manly,” he said. “I had no experience at all when I got here. I was taught from the ground up.”
Nathan Garibay soon discovered a passion for dance. He became an instructor and a competitor, eventually meeting his future wife at a dance competition in Las Vegas.
Julie Garibay was also introduced to dance later in life. The Indiana native earned an associate degree in architectural engineering from ITT Technical Institute and worked at a desk for several years before she decided to change her career.
“I tried going to the gym and I absolutely hated the treadmill. I wasn’t motivated unless I had a trainer pushing me to do something,” said Julie Garibay, who suffered from migraines and backaches while working at her previous job. “Then I found dancing. I could see the benefit from dancing and I just started to fall in love with it.”
About two years after beginning lessons, then 24-year-old Julie Garibay also became an instructor.
The couple formed a professional partnership in 2006, competing in American Smooth for four years. Julie Garibay relocated to San Diego and became an instructor at the same studio. Nathan Garibay was promoted to studio manager and Julie Garibay was promoted to dance director before the married couple eventually purchased the business from the previous owner.
“We’re a family,” Nathan Garibay said. “We want everybody to feel as if they walk into the family when they walk into the door.”
“With the family environment and the good energy, it’s like a second home,” added Training Director Nicole Wooding, who came to the studio as a student and has now worked at Fred Astaire Dance Studio for four years. “It’s life-changing here whether you’re a student or a teacher.”
With a team of eight people, including the Garibays, Fred Astaire Dance Studio in San Diego currently serves about 250 students each year.