The Music Center’s annual Dance DTLA series returns for its 16th year, but this year it’s virtual. From Bollywood to hip-hop and K-Pop to salsa, the nine-week free program grants viewers 45 minutes of beginner-level dance classes taught by local, esteemed LA instructors.
“It is a staple of The Music Center to have this program every summer,” said Lucy Zepeda, the assistant manager of community relations and partnerships at The Music Center.
In previous years, Dance DTLA welcomed local bands and DJs to play live following a class. This gave participants the chance to practice what they just learned and enjoy the music. Food and art elements added to the festivities. The 2019 series had 18,000 participants during the summer.
Zepeda said this year she was especially looking forward to dancing on The Music Center’s “The Plaza for All” stage. According to The Music Center website, the $41 million renovation of the 53-year-old space lasted 20 months and reopened in August 2019.
However, The Music Center moved Dance DTLA to a virtual format for 2020 because COVID-19 hit and gatherings are no longer safe. The digital series will still keep the essence of the program, Zepeda said, but viewers can participate at their leisure alone or with friends and family at home.
“Our teachers are the hearts of this program and I’m grateful I get to do this program with them,” Zepeda said.
Several of the program’s teachers have been instructors with Dance DTLA for years. This year’s series is intimate, as some lessons are broadcast from the teacher’s home. The Argentine Tango instructor is teaching a partner dance with her husband, Zepeda said, who is also a tango dancer. The classes are recorded throughout Los Angeles—including Highland Park, Manhattan Beach, Balboa Park and North Hollywood—which allows the audience to see a variety of settings.
Zepeda said she and her colleagues attend different classes to find new instructors for the program. In fact, she tried Brandon Juezan’s class before he joined Dance DTLA last year as the hip-hop instructor.
“As a grown woman going to a class with a lot of teenagers that could move...it was a little bit intimidating,” says Zepeda.
Juezan said hip-hop is the dance and movement made by the youth for the youth, and he has to stay up to date with the newest moves. However, he asks participants to be open minded as he includes moves from the 1980s to now.
“I do like to pick and choose a couple of moves and talk about the movements and where they came from,” Juezan said.
He wants the audience to have a better understanding of hip-hop, so he teaches around preserving the culture and history authentically.
This year’s hip-hop class format has been slightly modified from last year’s live event. The biggest change, Juezan said, is the lack of audience participation.
“As I talk and as I teach, I’m giving tips and things viewers can work on at home to get comfortable with it,” Juezan said.
He said he has a high-energy, aggressive and diverse approach to dance, which earned him the nickname “BeastBoi,” an ode to the DC Comics character Beast Boy.
“I want the audience to be ready for the energy and ready to put out, dance big and vibe out with each other,” Juezan said.