Welcome to L.A.
(Clockwise from top left: KPD Photodesign/Thinkstock; Filed Image/Thinkstock; Cameron Whitman/Thinkstock; Rolf 52/Thinkstock)
Whether you’re planning a move to Hollywood, new in town or visiting the area for just a week, let the pros be your guide to everything L.A. Dance Spirit asked four top dancers to round up their favorite eateries, studios and things to do in the City of Angels.
(Tomasz Rossa, courtesy BODYTRAFFIC)
Company member, BODYTRAFFIC
Bourkas trained at Canada’s National Ballet School before getting her BFA from California Institute of the Arts. She’s performed in L.A. with BODYTRAFFIC since 2011, and has also worked with Sonya Tayeh and Stacey Tookey.
Her home turf: “I live in an area called Larchmont Village. It’s between Koreatown and West Hollywood, and it’s full of restaurants and shops—everything you can imagine in four walkable blocks.”
Her favorite restaurant: “Sqirl [720 N Virgil Ave] was initially famous for making farm-to-table jams, but the owners recently opened a restaurant in addition to the store. Lucky for me, I discovered Sqirl before it blew up—now, weekend lines can be three blocks long! When I want a special treat, I’ll order the brioche toast with jam, or toast with kale, egg and tomatillo sauce—but everything is tasty.”
For her green-juice fix: “The most affordable juice spot is Pressed Juicery, and it has a few locations around the city. I go to the one in my neighborhood [201 N Larchmont Blvd] and get the Greens 3 juice.”
For cross-training: “I go to Equinox gyms to run, take Pilates and use the TRX system. I used to lift weights, but I found TRX is easier on my body. I also go to YogaWorks [230 N Larchmont Blvd] near my home five days a week.”
Best place to see dance: “The University of California–Los Angeles’ Royce Hall [340 Royce Dr] is a beautiful space, and it brings in amazing companies.”
Best free weekend activity: “I love the Melrose Trading Post [7850 Melrose Ave] on Sundays. It’s a massive flea market held in a high school parking lot, and it’s a major
event in the city.”
Her advice for getting around: “The thing about L.A. is that you really need a car. Auditions can send you running around the city, and it can take hours on public transportation. I’d suggest a car-sharing service like Uber or Lyft, but those rides can really add up, so save them for emergencies.”
(Photo by Rob Daly, courtesy Jessica Lee Keller)
Jessica Lee Keller
After a career in NYC with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Keller caught the Hollywood bug while dancing in The Adjustment Bureau, and moved to L.A. in 2010. Since then, she’s performed with the LXD on “Dancing with the Stars,” appeared in Disney’s Teen Beach Movie and danced with Stacey Tookey’s company, Still Motion.
Her home turf: “I live in Miracle Mile, about 10 minutes from EDGE Performing Arts Center, where I teach. If you’re looking for your first place in the city, NoHo (short for North Hollywood) is the best area for dancers. You can walk around easily, and there are a ton of studios.”
Her favorite restaurant: “I practically live on salads and smoothies, but I also can’t get enough Mexican food. My favorite spot is Mercado [7910 W 3rd St]. It has the best guacamole, and it’s always a fun place to go with girlfriends—or my guy!”
When she needs a break from ballet or contemporary dance: “Street dance has opened my eyes to a whole new world of dance possibilities. I recommend trying out a new
technique at Movement Lifestyle [11105 Weddington St] or Millennium Dance Complex [5113 Lankershim Blvd].”
Keller (right) at the top of Runyon Canyon (photo courtesy Keller)
Her go-to to-go food: “I love Orchard Flats, a cold-pressed juicery with several locations around town. I usually get a Groundworks 1, made from beets, carrots, bell peppers, celery and ginger root. But the Orchard Vanilla Latte, made with almond milk, is perfect for when I want something smooth and creamy.”
Best place to see dance: “REDCAT in downtown L.A. [631 W 2nd St] is amazing. It’s an intimate space, and so many wonderful companies perform there.”
Don’t leave L.A. without…“hiking Runyon Canyon or walking around Malibu Canyon Park. Getting a workout and being outside at the same time is amazing. And you have to go to the beach. Listening to the ocean can be really rejuvenating.”
Her advice for getting around: “If you can avoid it, don’t get in a car at 5 pm. L.A. has a subway system, which runs close to a handful of dance studios.”
Noelle in the L.A. Ballet studios (photo by Catherine Kanner, courtesy Los Angeles Ballet)
Principal, Los Angeles Ballet
A SoCal girl through and through, Noelle grew up in Huntington Beach, CA, and trained at Huntington Academy of Dance. She performed with Ballet Pacifica, Inland Pacific Ballet, Miami City Ballet and National Ballet of Canada before joining L.A. Ballet in 2011.
Her home turf: “I live in Hermosa Beach, just south of L.A. It’s a few blocks away from the shore with gorgeous views. The laid-back vibe makes going home a nice escape from L.A. proper at the end of a long workday.”
Her favorite restaurant: “RED O [8155 Melrose Ave] is a high-end Mexican restaurant, and they have a big raw-bar menu. Oysters and ceviche are my favorites, so this place is winning.”
Best spot for open class: “My favorite teacher in L.A. is Reid Olson,
who teaches at Dance Arts Academy [731 S La Brea Ave] in the Mid-Wilshire area. His class energy is perfect for me—lots of dance-y combos with a musical focus. You can really kick your own butt in class, especially if you’re gearing up for a hard performance.”
Best place to relax: “I love a good pier. A walk along the Strand—a path by the ocean—out to the Manhattan Beach pier [Manhattan Beach Blvd] is my favorite way to decompress.”
When she needs a little retail therapy: “My favorite store is called Tokyo Lifestyle [10800 W Pico Blvd] in the Westside Pavilion. It’s one of those kitschy Japanese stores that sells miniature everything. I bought a $3 massager there that I use every day. My partner Alex made fun of me when I first got it, because it looks like something Barbie would use. So, naturally, I bought him one, too!”
Noelle biking on the Strand (courtesy Allynne Noelle)
L.A.’s best-kept secret: “Everyone thinks ‘beach’ when they hear L.A., but there are actually a ton of great hiking trails. I like the trails and parks in Malibu the best. The Backbone Trail is close to 70 miles long, and it runs through the Santa Monica Mountains—the views are outstanding.”
Don’t leave L.A. without…“visiting the Getty Center [1200 Getty Center Dr]. It’s an iconic location with gorgeous views, and there are always great exhibits. The outside grounds are perfect for picnics, and the center has live music on the weekends. Best of all, it’s free! (Except for the parking.)”
Bryan Tanaka at Millennium Dance Complex (photo courtesy Bryan Tanaka)
Since moving to L.A. in 2003, Tanaka has danced for Rihanna, Usher, Madonna and Mariah Carey, among others. His choreography for Beyoncé’s “Video Phone” was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award.
His home turf: “After living in the heart of North Hollywood for a few years, I decided to move to Burbank, because I wanted a house and a yard. It’s still close to the major dance studios, plus I have access to the 170 Hollywood Freeway, which makes it easy to get to Hollywood for auditions and gigs.”
His favorite restaurant: “I love this Brazilian restaurant called Bossa Nova. Its three locations [7181 Sunset Blvd; 685 N Robertson Blvd; 10982 W Pico Blvd] serve amazing food until about 3 am, so it’s a great place to grab a bite after a late performance. I always order the traditional chicken with plantains.”
Favorite open class: “These days, I take a lot of classes at Millennium Dance Complex [5113 Lankershim Blvd]. And Tovaris Wilson’s jazz funk class at EDGE Performing Arts Center [6300 Romaine St] is one of my go-to classes. It’s challenging for me, a hip-hop dancer, because Tovaris incorporates technical elements into his warm-up and routines.”
For cross-training: “I just started taking yoga at CorePower [3575 Cahuenga Blvd W, no. 222] in Studio City. Flexibility is a weakness of mine, and a CorePower class includes lots of stretching and meditation. A lot of dancers also get together and play volleyball at a park in Tujunga—another of L.A.’s many neighborhoods.”
Tanaka's dog Mila loves L.A., too (photo courtesy Jaime Goodwin)
Best place for dancer spotting: “If you walk anywhere on Lankershim Blvd between Magnolia and Burbank boulevards in North Hollywood, you’ll see a ton of dancers, since that’s a major area for dance studios. Republic of Pie [11118 Magnolia Blvd] is a new spot in NoHo that’s also really popular among dancers. It’s got a great café vibe—you can get work done or have creative meetings.”
Best-kept secret in L.A.: “Griffith Park [4730 Crystal Springs Dr] has amazing views of the city, but my favorite park is the Laurel Canyon Dog Park [8260 Mulholland Dr]. It’s a secret gem.”