Are you one of the dancers who has flocked to L.A. to start a professional career? With bags packed and big dreams, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed once you finally cross the city limits. Get a headstart with our must-have guide on where to live, how to get around, and, most importantly, where to dance!
Welcome to the jungle.
Just like any other huge metropolis, each neighborhood—some of which are cities themselves—in L.A. has a distinctly different feel. With almost 10 million residents in L.A. County, it’s crucial to find your homey niche in this sea of strangers. Though the county is massive, the heart of L.A. can be boiled down to six areas: Hollywood, San Fernando Valley (or “The Valley”), Pasadena, Westside, Eastside, and South Bay. Below, we give you the lowdown on each area, as well as info on local dance studios and stores.
Over the past decade or so, the formerly seedy Hollywood area has morphed into a shiny tourist mecca—and a magnet for club-hopping starlets. Beneath its glitzy facade, however, Hollywood is a great place to live. Many young people are flocking to the location and its proximity to nightlife. To its west is West Hollywood (“WeHo”), a clean and colorful area filled with lively places to live, shop, eat, drink and meet. Because of its central location, the Hollywood/WeHo area is often plagued by traffic congestion, especially during the summer and on weekend nights.
Neighborhood Pick: Larchmont Village Just south of the Paramount Studios lot is Larchmont Village, a neighborhood that’s equal amounts friendly and trendy. Hip yoga studios, boutiques and restaurants line Larchmont Blvd, the social and physical center of the area.
Studios and Schools
Dance Arts Academy danceartsacademy.com 323-932-6230 Location: L.A.
EDGE Performing Arts Center edgepac.com 323-962-7733 Location: Hollywood
FOCUSFish focusfish.com 323-957-0901 Location: Hollywood
Hollywood Dance Center hollywooddancecenter.com 323-467-0825 Location: Hollywood
Hollywood High Performing Arts Center lausd.k12.ca.us/Hollywood_HS 323-461-3891 Location: HollywoodSWERVE swervestudio.com 323-782-0741 Location: West Hollywood
Third Street Dance 3rdstreetdance.com 310-275-4683 Location: West Hollywood
Capezio capeziodance.com 323-465-3744 Location: HollywoodWorkmens www.workmens.com 323-782-0985 Location: Melrose
Though the San Fernando Valley is part of L.A., it has a separate reputation for its “suburbia in the city” sprawl. Some people say they would never live in the “818,” while others swear by its family- and wallet-friendly appeal. In the summer, the heat is on as the heat gets trapped in the Valley, making it much hotter than neighboring areas. Many dancers choose to live in Studio City, North Hollywood, Sherman Oaks and Burbank for their affordability and proximity to “the industry.”
Neighborhood Pick: NoHo Arts District Besides being a stone’s throw from several major dance studios, North Hollywood’s NoHo Arts District is one of the cultural epicenters of L.A. Art galleries, theaters and shops are bookended by affordable housing. The Metro Red Line stops here, making it ideal for those who dare take public transportation.
Studios and Schools
Agoura Hills Dance agouradance.com 818-991-8883 Location: Agoura Hills
Anisa’s School of Dance anisadance.com 818-752-9829 Location: Sherman Oaks
Arias Dance Academy dancedancedance.com 805-494-6418 Location: Thousand OaksCalifornia Institute of the Arts calarts.edu/schools/dance 661-255-1050 Location: Valencia
Center Stage Dance L.A. centerstagedancela.com 818-763-5125 Location: Studio CityDance Dimensions Performing Arts Center gettherhythm.com 818-999-5296 Location: Woodland Hills
Debbie Reynolds Studio drdancestudio.com 818-985-3193 Location: North Hollywood
Dance in Motion danceinmotion.net 818-222-2085 Location: Woodland HillsGarri Dance Studio garridance.com 818-846-4390 Location: Burbank Hama’s Dance Center 818-985-8701 Location: Studio City
Millennium Dance Complex morolandis.com 818-753-5081 Location: North Hollywood
MKM Cultural Arts Center 818-752-2616 Location: North HollywoodRetter’s Academy Of Dance retterworld.com 818-889-5774 Location: Agoura Hills
Synthesis Performing Arts synthesisarts.com 818-754-1760 Location: Universal City
Van Nuys High School Performing Arts Magnet vannuyshs.org 818-781-2371 Location: Van Nuys
Apparel Warehouse 818-344-3224 Location: Tarzana
Champion Dance Shoes championdanceshoes.com 323-874-8704 Location: L.A.
Karabel Dancewear 818-955-8480 Location: Burbank
Turquoise International turquoiseintl.com 818-999-5542 Location: Woodland Hills
Located in the northeast area of L.A., Pasadena is filled with lush gardens, beautiful homes and old-town charm. Home to the famous Rose Bowl festivities, Pasadena is also the site of the locally popular Rose Bowl Flea Market every second Sunday of the month. Ballroom dance is big in this area, with the weekly “Lindy Groove” event and the very active Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association.
Neighborhood Pick: Old Town Pasadena Everything’s coming up roses in this historically beautiful area of town, where the Rose Parade is held annually. The heart of it all is Colorado Blvd, the “main drag” that includes more than 50 restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
Studios and Schools
The Athletic Garage athletic-garage.com 626-229-9769 Location: Pasadena
Ballet Petit Performing Arts Center balletpetit.net 818-790-5775 Location: La Canada Flintridge
Glendale Community College glendale.cc.ca.us/dance 818-240-1000 Location: Glendale
Le Studio lestudiodance.com 626-792-4616 Location: Pasadena
Pasadena Dance Theatre Conservatory of Performing Arts pasadenadance.org 626-683-3459 Location: Pasadena
The Vibe Catchthevibestudio.com 818-248-8838 Location: Montrose
The Red Shoes theredshoes.com 626-799-8615 Location: South Pasadena
Filled with fashionable zip codes, the Westside encompasses everything from quaint Pacific Palisades to tourist haven Santa Monica. Easy access to the beaches and freeways make this area of L.A. a popular place to call home. Though rents can seem out of reach in many areas, some dancers sniff out affordable places in Mar Vista, Culver City and the Westchester area.
Neighborhood Pick: Abbot Kinney Sandwiched between Main Street and Venice Blvd, Abbot Kinney is a one-mile stretch with a distinct personality. Funky architecture and eclectic people populate the neighborhood, which is full of artsy boutiques, galleries and eateries. Within walking distance of the beach, Abbot Kinney is an ideal place for young people to experience beach living with an urban feel.
Studios and Schools
Center for Movement Education and Research movement-education.org 310-477-9535 Location: Century City
Continuum continuummovement.com 310-453-4402 Location: Santa Monica
Dance Alive dancealive.com 310-454-5335 Location: Pacific Palisades
Dance Doctor Studio dancedoctor.com 310-459-2264 Location: Santa Monica
Debbie Allen Dance Academy debbieallendanceacademy.com 310-280-9145 Location: Culver City
Dance For Kids/Brentwood Academy of Dance danceforkids.la 310-820-5437 Locations: Brentwood and Malibu
Katnap Dance Center katnapdance.net 310-306-7069 Location: West Los Angeles
Loyola Marymount University lmu.edu/PageFactory.aspx?PageID=1010 310-338-5233 Location: Playa Del Rey
MNR Dance Factory mnrdancefactory.com 310-826-4554 Location: Brentwood
Santa Monica College smc.edu/smc/departments/dance/dance.htm 310-434-4590 Location: Santa Monica
Santa Monica Dance Studio santamonicadancestudio.com 310-319-5339 Location: Santa Monica
Studio No. 1 danceno1.com 310-446-4443 Location: West L.A.
TurnOut Performing Arts Center turnoutpac.com 310-207-8200 Location: West L.A.
University of California–Los Angeles wac.ucla.edu 310-825-3951 Location: L.A.
Westside School of Ballet westsideballet.com 310-828-2018 Location: Santa Monica
Westchester Dance Center wdacademy.com 310-348-9667 Location: L.A.
The Dance Store thedancestore.com 310-271-3664 and 310-399-8977 Locations: L.A. and Venice
Danny’s Warehouse dannyswarehouse.com 800-552-5385 Location: West L.A.
Shelly’s Dancewear & Costume shellysonline.com 310-475-1400 Location: West L.A.
The E is for “eclectic,” as the Eastside encompasses everything from the rapidly gentrifying downtown area to the hip confines of Los Feliz to the diverse Echo Park area. Though pockets of this area are still unsafe, many choose to live on the Eastside for its unpretentious attitude and rich cultural offerings. This area is also less expensive to live in: rents are on par with The Valley.
Neighborhood Pick: Silver Lake A haven for L.A. hipsters, Silver Lake walks the line between completely gentrified and an undiscovered gem. Many artists call this area home. Still somewhat affordable, many residents live up in the hills in duplexes or in houses with roommates. Check out the Sunset Junction Street Fair, a popular musical event held every August.
Studios and Schools
California State University–Los Angeles calstatela.edu/dept/theatre_dance 323-343-4001 Location: East L.A.
Colburn Dance Institute colburnschool.edu 213-621-2200 x202 Location: Downtown L.A.
Jung Im Lee Korean Dance Academy koreandanceacademy.com 213-487-2957 Location: Koreatown
Los Angeles City College lacitycollege.edu 323-669-1031 Location: L.A.
Los Angeles County High School for the Arts lachsa.org 323-343-2565 Location: East L.A.
Melba Morris Ballet Studio e-comp.com/mmballet 213-484-1116 Location: Echo Park
Studio A Dance studioadance.com 323-661-8311 Location: Silver Lake
Vivace Conservatory for the Performing Arts vivaceperformingarts.com 213-403-1600 Location: Chinatown
The South Bay is the area along Santa Monica Bay, part of the Southwest peninsula of Los Angeles County, made up of beach cities including Torrance, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Inglewood and Palos Verdes. Though it’s somewhat out of the way from the heart of the industry, most South Bay types love its beachy breezes and laid-back atmosphere. Being active is the name of the game—there are lots of recreational opportunities nearby.
Neighborhood Pick: Manhattan Beach For those who want the perks of a beach lifestyle with proximity to more urban life, Manhattan Beach is the way to go. “Work hard, play hard” seems to be the motto of locals, who toil by day and play beach volleyball or rollerblade during their time off.
Studios and Schools
California State University–Long Beach csulb.edu/~dance 562-985-4747 Location: Long Beach
Long Beach City College tdf.lbcc.cc.ca.us 562-938-4383 Location: Long Beach
Peninsula School of Performing Arts pspadance.com 310-375-1398 Location: Palos Verdes
Professional School for the Arts psarts.com 310-328-7664 Location: Torrance
Swing Shift On Tap swingshiftontap.com 310-606-5606 Location: El Segundo
Swingtime Dance Studio swingtimedancestudio.com 562-972-4863 Locations: Rotating, in South Bay and Orange County
Shape Dancewear shapedancewear.com 562-425-4555 Location: Long Beach
Life Is a Highway
Though dancing shoes will take you far, a reliable set of wheels is needed to get anywhere in L.A.! (Just ask your agent.) Though public transportation is available, the spread-out nature of the city almost demands the use of a car. Below, you’ll find a few tips and tricks to help you navigate the crowded streets of L.A.:
- Invest in a Thomas Guide (thomas.com) for $19.95. These handy street guides are a must for any trunk or glove compartment. Use the easy-to-read maps when you get lost in the Valley on the way to an audition or when wandering the Venice Canals trying to find the beach.
- Familiarize yourself with the “surface streets.” Some Angelenos pride themselves on being able to get just about anywhere without using the highways. Some streets known for being great shortcuts are Fountain Ave (just south of Sunset Blvd), Palms Ave (just north of Venice Blvd), and Laurel Canyon Blvd to get “over the hill” to The Valley.
- Meet your new BFF: sigalert.com. Freeway traffic in L.A. often moves at the pace of a snail, and when running late, you’ll need to put on your strategy hat. Sigalert provides real-time updates on highway accidents, speeds and slowdowns. Use it to plan an alternate route in a pinch!
- Though not all areas are accessible by public transport, the subways and buses can be an economically and environmentally friendly way to move when possible. Visit the Metropolitan Transit Authority at mta.net to see what routes are convenient to your abode.
Home Sweet Home: where to find the best deals and digs:
- Westside Rentals (westsiderentals.com) is a reputable resource for finding a decent place. Though membership costs $60 for 60 days, many L.A. veterans consider Westside Rentals the best source of listings. Those who want to cut down on costs can take advantage of the dual membership rate, which costs $70 for two people. Check out the Rental Connection Parties, held every Sunday from noon to 1 pm, where you can meet potential roommates and schmooze with those in the real estate know. 310-395-RENT
Grub on the Go
When pressed for time, finding a healthy treat to tide you over can be crucial. Check out these local favorites:
- Casting Café castingcafe.us Want a side of fame with your order? Check out this sleek West Hollywood café, situated within a full-service casting agency. It also has free wi-fi!
- Famima famima-usa.com Healthy, upscale treats beckon at this unique Japanese-inspired grocery store and takeout restaurant. No matter which side of town you’re on, its six locations make it easy to satisfy your sushi fix or pin down a tasty panini. 310-214-1001 (Locations: Hollywood, Pasadena, Santa Monica, Torrance, West Hollywood, Westwood)
- Mani’s Bakery manisbakery.com Satisfy your sweet tooth with the sugarless and organic offerings at Mani’s on Fairfax. Bakery goodies await, as well as diet-friendly breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.
- Simply Wholesome simplywholesome.com A half-restaurant, half-market located in the Ladera Heights/Windsor Hill area, this health-conscious venue provides an inexpensive outlet for quick cravings. Located near the Lula Washington Dance Theatere, whose multicultural company fuses street styles, jazz, ballet and modern. 323-294-2144
Dance, Dance, Dance
Where to dance the night away, from bloc agency dancer Kerry Wee, who has shared the stage with stars like Beyoncé and Ashanti:
- Every Monday night, Wee can be found at the free tap jam at Debbie Allen Dance Academy. “It’s a great way to practice freestyle tap in a welcoming environment,” she says. Tap Jam, Mondays at 8 pm, Debbie Allen Dance Academy debbieallendanceacademy.com
- Though salsa nights abound around town, Wee swears by “Descarga Con Timba” at Hollywood’s King King nightclub. Voted Best Tuesday Night Dance Club by Los Angeles magazine, DCT gathers professional and amateur salsa lovers to the tunes of a live Afro-Cuban salsa band. Descarga Con Timba, lessons 9-10 pm with dancing afterward, every Tuesday, King King Hollywood. kingkinghollywood.com/descarga
- Authentic live big band music at The Derby on Los Feliz provides ample fodder for Lindy and jitterbug aficionados, and, every Sunday night, beginner and intermediate swing dance classes hook novices. clubderby.com
- L.A.’s historic Mayan Theatre leads a double life as a lavish nightclub and concert hall. On Fridays, the club hosts “Mixxx,” a hip-hop/house music night. clubmayan.com