The Sweat Spot LA: Dance, Exercise and Fun In A Retro Way
In Silverlake, Calif. at around noon, I join about 50 other Angelenos who are dressed in yoga gear and bright spandex for an exhilarating hour at the Sweat Spot LA. We are all here for the dance class called Sweaty Sundays, which is taught by choreographer and designer Ryan Heffington.
Attendees are people in their late 20s and up with a range of dance experience, so I was already intimidated being the only person under 20 and someone who hasn't had any dance experience. Upbeat techno music blasts over the speakers, bringing all class members to their feet and overpowering the voice of Heffington. Everyone stares into the floor-to-ceiling glass wall in front of the room to follow Heffington.
The first half of the class is a cardio warm-up, which features yoga moves, lunges and other stretches, and some basic dance moves. Already, by the end of the warm-up, I am dripping with sweat. The second portion is memorizing a routine. The routine is fast, and people are picking it up at different stages.
Sweaty Sundays is the most popular class at the studio, and it's easy to see why. At the end of the class, I am energized and in a great mood, even though I just worked out. Heffington, who has been teaching the class for over two years, believes the class is attractive to many people because it's “a mix between a work out and dance club.” Sweaty Sundays, or the “dance class for everyone,” was born after his friends repeatedly asked him where they could take beginning dance classes, so he understood this need and demographic and started it up himself, he said.
“I don't necessarily teach dance technique but create movement that is fun, sassy and sometimes challenging. This gives the dancer a chance to let go and just rock out,” Heffington said.
Heffington opened The Sweat Spot in May 2010 after the “overwhelming attendance” at his former studio, Foresight Studios. The studio was founded so Heffington could offer a “safe place for adults (beginning to professional) to come and experience dance without judgment or competitive energy,” he said.
“The idea of turning people away seemed counter productive. Everyone should be welcomed to enjoy dance,” Heffington said.
The Sweat Spot features many other classes every day of the week, such as Wet Wednesdays (an identical class to Sweaty Sundays that I found equally challenging), jazz fusion, ballet, burlesque, pilates and tap.
I attended the tap class, which is taught by Kristen Leahy. The tap class is smaller and had about five attendees. Leahy, who has been tapping since the age of four, loves working at this studio because it's not “intimidating or competitive,” unlike other studios.
“There's something about this place that feels like a family, so everybody feels welcome and everybody is here to have fun. Like, it's not about who's a better dancer; it's really about having fun and sweating together, and supporting each other, and cheering each other on,” she said.
Heffington, a choreographer, instructor and performer, has performed in various venues such as the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the L.A.County Museum of Art, various New York runways and underground clubs. He has worked with multiple artists such as the Shiny Toy Guns, Ellie Goulding, Ke$ha, and NIKE. Heffington said his favorite part about instructing is “a toss between getting to know this community and being inspired by his students.”
“Finding out the layers and depth to people is always fascinating, and it's through dance that this friendship evolves,” he said. “I also enjoy watching how my students naturally move. Sure, I choreograph the moves, but it's the individual take, attitude and execution that always brings it to another level. I love the fact that I don't naturally move like them and vice versa.”
Each class at The Sweat Spot costs $10 and is open to people of all ages and levels of experience.