Ryan Heffington smacks my hands in a double-high five, then hugs my slimy body. Sweat is oozing out of every pore, but that’s the norm here. We’ve just concluded an hour-long session of “Sweaty Sundays,” Heffington’s weekly class that mixes ballet and jazz moves with constant motion – plus palpable enthusiasm in the form of shouts (“Oh yeah!” and “Oui oui!”), gestures (the slimy hug) and fashion (‘80s-style neon spandex galore).
I was one of 50 or 60 dancers busting moves in a spacious studio on Sunset Blvd. in Silver Lake – the aptly named “Sweat Spot” that Heffington opened just a year ago. The Sweaty Sundays concept actually began in 2006 and 2007 ago when Heffington would give impromptu dance classes before performances with his dance troupe, Fingered, at local bars. It was a hit with the hipster scene, and in May 2008 Heffington began offering actual classes at Foresight Studios, also in Silver Lake. By 2009, the Sweaty Sundays craze grew so popular that even the New York Times caught wind.The new studio offers more than Sweaty Sundays – there’s also Sweaty Sundays Slow Jam, Wet Wednesdays, Boom Boom Burlesque, Rock ‘n Roll Ballet, Tap Dat Azz, Contemporary Jazz and Turns, Terms and Technique. And two children’s classes to boot.
But Sweaty Sundays (and its sister, Wet Wednesdays), is the class that aims to appeal to a wide-range of dance lovers, where “people of all shapes, sizes and ages come to sweat while exercising their minds and bodies in the form of dance,” writes Heffington on the studio website.
The class opens with warm-ups and stretching, segues to prancing across the floor, and concludes with a short – but high energy – combination. I found the choreography challenging enough to be fun without being impossible. I could call on my classical ballet technique while also breaking with that tradition altogether. The soundtrack? Indie rock, techno and ‘80s new wave blasted loudly from the speakers.
After class, I thank Heffington for my first Sweat Spot experience. I know I’ll be back. He releases me from the hug and says, “You were great!”