How It Started
Arthur Murray International Inc., America’s second oldest franchise organization, has locations throughout the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Europe, the Middle East, Japan, Africa and Australia. Just as it has done for more than a century, Arthur Murray® Studios carries on the tradition of teaching the world to dance.
Our history starts in 1912 with an American symbol of entrepreneurial success, Arthur Murray. A skilled dancer and a gifted businessman, Murray was among the first to use what was considered at the time a cutting-edge advertising technique — direct mail.
This innovative use of print advertising attracted national attention, as did Murray’s business acumen. He changed the world when in March of 1920, he arranged to transmit music 2 miles away to a group of dance students from Georgia Tech. it was the first live, radio broadcast of dance music.
Before World War II, Arthur Murray instructors were a regular part of first-class steamship cruises and during the 1930s, studios introduced dances such as Lambeth Walk and The Big Apple. In fact, Murray’s studio took its first steps toward becoming one of the largest chains of dance schools due to the popularity of The Big Apple.
Arthur Murray wasn’t just a businessman and dancer. He was a part of American culture. Singer Betty Hutton recorded the hit song “Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in A Hurry” with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra in 1942 for the movie “The Fleet’s In.” By 1946, there were 72 Arthur Murray Dance Studios across the country.
In the 1950s, Murray was one of several professionals to capitalize on the popularity of Latin dance, and his instructors attended conventions in Cuba to learn the most popular dances first-hand.
An adroit business man, Murray turned to television. In July 1950, he ran five, 15-minute television spots on CBS with his wife, Kathryn, teaching. He later bought a summer series on ABC called “Arthur Murray Dance Party.” Nearly 100 programs were broadcast by 1952, and ratings climbed. In the summer of that year, the Murrays signed with their first sponsor, General Foods. Viewers cross America adored the show, and many flocked to Arthur Murray® Studios throughout the country. The show ran nationally for 12 years.
Arthur Murray® Studios was purchased by a group of franchisees when Arthur and Kathryn retired in 1964. The franchisees brought with them new leadership and a fresh spirit that has kept pace with a youth culture that is constantly changing.
The studios continue to flourish, and its instructors can be found on movie sets in Hollywood; backstage on Broadway; and working with international entertainers to promote the biggest hits. In fact, it’s a safe bet that Arthur Murray Studios is involved whenever a movie needs a dance scene.
Whether as teachers or performers, Arthur Murray instructors have had important roles in movies such as “Dirty Dancing,” “Dirty Dancing II,” “Dance with Me,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Flash Dance,” “An American President,” “True Lies,” “Saturday Night Fever” and ‘Scent of a Woman.”
Arthur Murray® Franchised Dance Studios also play a prominent role in the print industry, with dancers appearing in magazines that include Vogue, Martha Stewart Wedding, Smithsonian, Sports Illustrated, Woman’s Day and others. It seems that whenever advertisers want to reach an audience, they know dance is the universal language that brings people together as seen by Gap’s now famous Khaki Swing commercials to dancing M&M’s and gas pumps.
Senior management also is involved in the world of professional and amateur competitive dance, known as Dance Sport. Arthur Murray® officials also have worked to bring competitive ballroom to the Olympics.
Franchised Dance Studios
Part of what makes Arthur Murray® Franchised Dance Studios stand apart from others is that they are run by individuals who have a passion for dance. Each studio is privately owned by an individual or individuals who have worked their way to the top, from instructor to executive. By the time they buy a franchise, these professionals know every phase of the business, from teaching and supervising to marketing and managing a business.
The practice of building from within means that the Arthur Murray Studio system is strong, with franchises that are as committed to the spirit of excellence as Arthur Murray himself. There are approximately 280 Arthur Murray® Franchised Dance Studios worldwide, Arthur Murray Whitefish Bay being one of them.