Dancing makes me feel alive, but there's nothing worse than a teacher yelling “WHO ARE YOU AUDITIONING FOR?” when all I want to do is let loose and experience an invigorating workout. I've danced my whole life but I'm not trying to be cast in a music video. When I go to a cardio class in L.A., I'm really just looking for a no-judgment zone that leaves me with a confidence boost *and* dripping in sweat. This list is just that: a combination of my favorite noncompetitive dance classes, plus a handful of recommendations from Angelenos whom I reached out to via Twitter and IRL. Have at it and report back.
Straight Up Cardio
Holy shit, this class will have you sore the next day. The instructor, Kim Blank, is an O.G. cardio queen of L.A. Not only was she a dancer in Michael Jackson's music video for “Thriller” but she also taught aerobics at Jane Fonda's studio back in the day. She's even got a photo on Instagram to prove it. Bust out your Spandex, or not, and go for the burn while jumping around to a very wide range of music, anything from pop to vintage rock & roll. kimblank.com/kimblank/current_classes.html.
Yoga Booty Ballet
Picture yourself in your bedroom dancing in front of the mirror to Taylor Swift. Now picture that with 15 other females (and sometimes a couple of dudes). This class could be classified as cultish — but in a super-inviting, slumber-party kind of way. You'll start with easy-to-follow cardio dance moves set to pop music. Once you're feeling warm, it's on to the booty toning (similar to what you'd do in a barre class). Then you'll spend about 10 minutes with a yoga-style cooldown. If you're in the mood for something special, Luisa Frias teaches to a live drummer the first Monday of every month at Heartbeat House in Atwater Village. facebook.com/luisa.frias.12.
Rock Your Best
You won't even realize you're doing intense strength training amid the feel-good Caribbean music. Or at the very least, it'll be way more manageable. After a high-intensity warmup, the class will transition to a Afro-Caribbean dance party. “I think it's fun to share a little taste of what it feels like to be in a Carnival. … It's like a free trip,” instructor Rocky Horsford says. “You have to be very vulnerable to be dancing to this music, because it's very hypnotic.” Her favorite students are the ones who are all over the place. “The only way you are going to know how your body operates is if you just let go,” she says. Yeah, no judgment here. rockyourbest.com.
Old School Skinny
“Let me hear you say I GOT THIS,” yells Luckie. “I GOT THIS,” respond a class of sweaty dancers. Luckie is one badass teacher whose clothing alone will transport you to a '90s house party. This class came highly recommended on Twitter via @niceup_, who says you can expect throwback jams and dance moves that'll make you feel as if you're in a music video from the '90s or '00s. thatsluckie.com/oss.
Laganja's Dance School
If you watch RuPaul's Drag Race, you know that Laganja Estranja is a legit dancer. What you might not know is that she often teaches in NoHo and downtown L.A. At Laganja's Dance School, you'll learn hip-hop, jazz and funk choreography IN HEELS. No wonder they also refer to it as a confidence workshop. laganjaestranja.com/dance.
If showtunes are more your speed, 5-6-7-Broadway is the ticket. This class was recommended to me by Betsy Uhler, co-founder of local dance company L.A. Unbound. “This is a cardio dance class set to Broadway music using props like gold glitter top hats. Fun fun fun!,” she says. “Joseph Corella-Sandler is the main instructor and he might be the friendliest person I've ever met — energy for DAYS.” 567sweat.com/schedule.
Pony Sweat is aerobics for people who just want to dance to good music. It's taught by Emilia Richeson, a high-pitched, high-energy, leotard-wearing instructor who refers to her students as ponies. It is so L.A. and that's why we live-streamed a class on our Facebook page. You're very welcome. ponysweataerobics.com/calendar.
You can find Buti Yoga all over L.A. but our Twitter friend @kristenmaizon recommends Katherine, who teaches at the poledancing studio Vertitude in Canoga Park. Buti Yoga takes place in a dimly lit room but it sounds the opposite of chill. Expect a combination of power yoga and tribal dance: The music will be loud and the moves will be sensual. clients.mindbodyonline.com.
GROOV3 is a huge hit in L.A. It's an open-level hip-hop class with a live DJ that's taught at 27 locations around the city. If you're new to memorizing dance moves, it may be overwhelming at first. But creator Benjamin Allen says the choreography is always broken down using two speeds (half-time and tempo) to make it easier for everyone to catch on. Even if you can't remember it all, you'll probably love the music. Just close your eyes and pretend you're at a club while you dance to '80s and '90s pop and R&B. groov3.com/locate.
Meant to boost sex appeal and self-confidence, this is a heels class, as in wear high heels — but NO STILETTOS, screams the website. In other words, they don't want to be liable for your broken limbs. Our Twitter friend @stephyoungmc says Shawna Pops' class at Your Neighborhood Studio in Culver City is super welcoming. The choreography looks fun, sexy and honestly outside of my skill set. But hey, I'll try anything once. Pro tip: Bring kneepads. facebook.com/Seductive-Approach-1807582409465425.
AfroFunk Dance Fit
“Shake off the evil like you're shaking off water,” Tanita Fadyeyola yells as she's teaching choreography. (This class is actually where I got inspired to write this post.) She mixes African and Caribbean choreography with spiritual phrases that'll make your day 1,000 percent better. Believe me when I say, you will leave feeling motivated. movedancelive.com/classes.