4 Pro Dancers Share Their Fave Places to Eat, Shop, and Take Class in L.A.
The City of Angels can be overwhelming—so many cool, artsy hot spots, so little time. How can a dancer decide where to take class, eat, shop, or sightsee? We turned to four pros living in L.A. for local recommendations. They crafted their ideal itineraries for all things dance and more.
Bulle (center) in George Balanchine's "Serenade" with Los Angeles Ballet (photo by Reed Hutchinson, courtesy Bulle)
Principal dancer, Los Angeles Ballet
My perfect L.A. day would start with waking up relatively early and making myself a nice breakfast. Then, ballet class, of course, at Los Angeles Ballet (11755 Exposition Blvd.), followed by some cooldown time for stretching and physical therapy.
I love catching up with friends and having lunch outings. My favorite lunchtime and weekend food spot is a local Aussie cafe called Bondi Harvest (1814 Berkeley St.). It's near LAB, and it's the best food in town. I love to relax in the chill, low-key vibe. My other favorite spot is Gjusta (320 Sunset Ave.) in Venice. The food is amazing and it's got a nice outdoor scene. Last but not least, my favorite sandwich place is The Daily Dose (1820 Industrial St.), in the downtown L.A. arts district. It's a must. It's in the cutest little alley with lights and has the best sandwiches ever.
At Bondi Harvest (courtesy Bulle)
Depending on how stressful and physical my day was, I might plan to do something to escape the ballet world and get out in nature. Preferably, it'd be an afternoon walk on El Matador Beach (32350 Pacific Coast Hwy.) in Malibu. It's got gorgeous cliffs and beautiful clean water. Then, maybe a light hike in the Santa Monica Mountains. My favorite is the Will Rogers State Park (1501 Will Rogers State Park Rd.) hike in Pacific Palisades. The views are amazing and you can see the ocean, beach, and all the way to downtown.
Exploring downtown is something that I love to do in the late afternoon. There are so many streets filled with different interesting shops and foods. It's fun to just wander around for a few hours, then stay until the evening to walk through the Downtown Art Walk (downtownartwalk.org), which happens every second Thursday of the month.
For dinner, I'd head to my absolute favorite spot, Fishing With Dynamite (1148 Manhattan Ave.). It's in Manhattan Beach, and I love taking an after-dinner stroll down the beautiful pier.
First, I'd wake up and open my curtains to let the L.A. sun hit my face. It gives me that spark of energy I need to start my day. I also always order Starbucks Strawberry Refresher drink on my Postmates app and cook breakfast while I'm waiting for it to arrive.
When I'm not on tour, it's important for me to stay fit and healthy to maintain my stamina. So my perfect L.A. day would involve exercising in my gym and taking a walk in North Hollywood Park (11430 Chandler Blvd.) or Runyon Canyon Park (2000 N. Fuller Ave.).
I'd also take lots of dance classes at Millennium Dance Complex (11528 Ventura Blvd.), Movement Lifestyle (11105 Weddington St.), Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio (6514 Lankershim Blvd.), The Playground LA (7375 Melrose Ave.), or Edge Performing Arts Center (6300 Romaine St.). I love taking from everyone, but a few of my favorite teachers are Kevin Maher, Brian Friedman, Yanis Marshall, Bobby Newberry, Derrell Bullock, Jojo Gomez, and Tricia Miranda.
Melvin (far right) taking class at Millennium Dance Complex (courtesy Melvin)
Then, I'd grab a bite at Chop Stop (11990 Ventura Blvd.) in Studio City. I love to do the build-your-own salad bowl. I really enjoy spending time with my besties, so I'd probably meet them next, at Greenhouse Juice Bar (5235 Lankershim Blvd.), where we love to drink smoothies and take pictures—the vibe there is so cool. We also have so much fun doing mini photo-shoots and dancing in the most random places. Maybe we'd walk down Melrose Avenue, because it has a lot of cool graffiti walls, and head to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (5905 Wilshire Blvd.) because there are those awesome tall lampposts.
I used to be a gymnast, so my perfect day would also include a stop at the gym I go to, XMA (5140 Lankershim Blvd.), to tumble.
Then, I'd head to Pitfire (5211 Lankershim Blvd.) for dinner—I'm obsessed with the chicken and shrimp mac and cheese. For dessert, I would stop by Sprinkles (629 Americana Way) in Glendale for ice cream with the red velvet cupcake topping. It's my addiction!
Photo by Malachi Middleton, courtesy Hewlett
Dancer, L.A. Contemporary Dance Company
I'd start by waking up and going for a walk around Echo Park Lake (751 Echo Park Ave.) to my favorite coffee shop, Woodcat Coffee Bar (1532 Sunset Blvd.). I love the dimly lit atmosphere. It's such an inspiring place for me to listen to music, finding something to create to as I drink my morning coffee.
Next, I'd head to Botanica (1620 Silver Lake Blvd.) for brunch. Their entire menu is amazing and ever-changing, but right now my favorite dish is the Turkish eggs with a side of bacon.
Turkish eggs dish from Botanica (courtesy Hewlett)
From there, I'd go downtown for company class with my LACDC (618 Moulton Ave.) family, taught by our artistic director, Genevieve Carson. I've been with the company since 2013, and dancing with these people feels like home. Genevieve's class and choreography are always extremely challenging, but so fulfilling.
After class, I'd head to one of my favorite vintage shops on the East Side, like The Bearded Beagle (4646 Hollywood Blvd.), Painted Bird (4208 Santa Monica Blvd.), or Paper Moon Vintage (4516 Hollywood Blvd.), to find some awesome new pieces to add to my closet. I love secondhand and vintage stores because you can find things you won't see anybody else in.
Paper Moon vintage clothing shop (courtesy Hewlett)
After a little shopping, I'd run to Scout Cafe (3707 Sunset Blvd.) for a Clover juice. And then I'd walk over to Cafe Stella (3932 Sunset Blvd.) for something quick and light, like their delicious avocado toast.
It wouldn't be an L.A. day without a little sunshine, so I'd find a pool that I could dip in for a bit. At The Standard (550 S. Flower St.) in downtown L.A., you can use the rooftop pool without having to stay at the hotel, or there's Wi Spa (2700 Wilshire Blvd.), where you can pamper yourself with all sorts of sauna rooms, hot tubs, and pools, plus a rooftop deck where you can lay out, relax, and get some sun.
My dream day would continue at The Sweat Spot (3327 Sunset Blvd.), where I'd teach my class called Give & Take. The Sweat Spot is owned by Ryan Heffington—it's my favorite studio to teach at in L.A. Give & Take is a contemporary class that helps dancers connect with their bodies and the space they're in.
Hewlett at the Sweat Spot, teaching Give & Take (courtesy Hewlett)
After class, I'd clean up, put on my new outfit from shopping earlier, and head to Oriel (1135 N. Alameda St.) in Chinatown for dinner. It's a new French restaurant that's my favorite right now. The decor and atmosphere are beautiful, and everything on the menu is incredible. Go with friends so you can order a bunch of things and share!
Finally, I'd see a show of some sort. L.A. has so many beautiful, talented artists and so many amazing, unconventional spaces where you can see something almost any night of the week. Some of my favorite places for immersive multimedia works are Navel (1611 S. Hope St.), Basic Flowers (242 S. Broadway), and the Bootleg Theater (2220 Beverly Blvd.).
Photo by Rose Eichenbaum
Choreographer and teacher
My ideal L.A. day would begin with the sun rising and filling my apartment with beautiful light. I always start with a meditation and a prayer, followed by asking Siri to play my favorite jams.
I love kicking my day off at Barry's Bootcamp (1106 La Cienega Blvd.) in West Hollywood. It's extremely challenging, gets me sweating, and the music is bumping. I'd follow that up with a stop at Earthbar (8365 Santa Monica Blvd.). They have great smoothies and açai bowls. I'd sit outside, people-watch, and bask in the L.A. sun. After, I'd pop my headphones in and dance and sing as I walk back home.
Later, I'd head out again. I love brunch, so I'd meet up with a friend at Hugo's (8401 Santa Monica Blvd.). They have amazing chocolate chip pancakes and a huge tea menu. After delicious food and friend time, I'd head back home, light some incense, and give myself some time to create, whether that's dancing around or playing with some choreography.
Next, I'd take a drive around the city, just exploring and getting lost. If it's a nice day I'd head to Venice Beach (1800 Ocean Front Walk) to rent a bike, ride around, and hop in the ocean. The ocean has always been a big part of my life since I'm from Hawaii, so I love reconnecting and grounding myself at the beach.
Venice Beach (Thinkstock)
At night, one of my favorite things to do in L.A. is Drag Queen Bingo at Hamburger Mary's (8288 Santa Monica Blvd.). My friends and I have a blast playing bingo while eating burgers and fries. I'm also a big sweets guy, so to wrap up my perfect day in L.A., I'd stop by Van Leeuwen Ice Cream (5915 Franklin Ave.). They have the best vegan ice cream I've ever had, and I've tried a lot of ice cream. One of my favorite combinations is chocolate and pistachio, or honeycomb.
A version of this story appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "My Dream L.A. Day."