Photograph courtesy Flickr/tibchris
Long before Dancing with the Stars, L.A. took dance seriously; after all, this is the city where the funk moves of popping, locking, and electric boogaloo were born and hip-hop came of age. Given our love of exercise, it’s no surprise that there seems to be a studio everywhere you step. Whether you’re partial to the fast-paced “Salsa Blast” or the core-strengthening “Yoga Booty Ballet,” you’ll feel the burn while practicing an art form (for about $11 to $15 per class). Here’s where to catch the beat.
Justin, Usher, and Beyoncé have all broken a sweat at the Millennium Dance Complex, which specializes in hip-hop. Stick to the back (newbies are not allowed up front for “open” classes), and leave the camera at home (celeb snaps and autographs are verboten). An instructor named Sho-tyme breaks down basic hip-hop moves. Build on what you’ve learned in Kenya Clay’s beginning hip-hop courses, which offer instruction in choreography (yes, we know that’s counterintuitive). When Andy Blank-enbuehler, the choreographer for In the Heights (recently at the Pantages), was researching the style for the show, he went to Marty Kudelka’s and David Moore’s classes for inspiration. There are also lessons in jazz funk, ballet, and locking. » 5113 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-753-5081.
Dancing is practically a religion at the Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association, which holds its classes in an airy chair-lined hall behind the picturesque Hill Avenue Grace Lutheran Church. Founders Erin and Tami Stevens focus on ballroom and swing. The five-week beginners’ ballroom series draws about 40 students, which is also their average age. No need to bring a partner: The active social scene may be the main attraction. Even more mingling opportunities are to be had at the Saturday-night swing dances and monthly ballroom soirees; both feature live bands. » 73 N. Hill Ave., Pasadena, 626-799-5689.
The Pepto-Bismol pink 3rd Street Dance was the training ground for Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance before the shows got their own digs. Even those who have never set foot on a dance floor are greeted here like old pals. Swing classes twist and turn to Elvis, and there’s a handy “Salsa I.5” class nestled between ability levels I and II that focuses on the “cross-body lead.” Calling all couples: Eight-week ballroom sessions help you hone your technique for your first wedding dance. » 8558 W. 3rd St., L.A., 310-275-4683.
Near the car dealerships on Brand Boulevard is the quaint Heartbeat House, which bills itself as a “noncompetitive dance/workout/fitness studio.” A massive street-facing window is plastered with photos of instructors and classes to dissuade looky-loos. Neophytes should check out the “Bollywood Dance” taught by Rahul Nath, who bounces, squats, and artfully angles his arms and hands to bhangra beats. During breaks, out-of-breath students dry themselves off with towels; there’s a stash if you forget yours. Other classes recommended for first-timers include “Cardio Ballet Barre” and “Rock ’n Soul Pilates.” The place is easy to miss—a tree blocks the signage from the street. » 3141 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village, 323-669-2821.
There’s a family feeling at the Debbie Reynolds Studio, where all ages commune in the 1970s-era lounge. The former MGM contract star (Singin’ in the Rain, The Unsinkable Molly Brown) opened the facility in 1979, and Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Bette Midler were among the early patrons. Beginning hip-hop sessions are well attended and newcomer friendly (Dana R. delivers positive reinforcement in her Saturday class). Veena Bidasha teaches all the right belly dance moves, and Kumari Suraj gives the scoop on “waacking” (think vogue-ing across a stage). » 6514 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-985-3193.
Your Neighborhood Studio is housed in the Eric Owen Moss-designed Conjunctive Points Theater Complex, having taken over the former Debbie Allen Dance Academy space. Owner Denise Mazan mixes cardio-fitness workouts (the heart-pumping “groove method”) and technique classes, which include a classical ballet tutorial. Wiggle Room and Shimmy studio are etched in the frosted-glass doors to the classrooms (no observing—if you’re there, you must participate!). Events like a recent “Boogie Up the Boardwalk” had teachers and students grooving from Venice Beach to Santa Monica in celebration of National Dance Day (indeed, there is one). » 3625 Hayden Ave., Culver City, 310-876-3498.