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Ryan Heffington dancer SWEATFEST
Photograph: Courtesy Ryan Heffington/Jessica Pons

Sweat for justice with Ryan Heffington’s virtual dance classes

Join the choreographer for Sia and FKA twigs in fighting police brutality this week.

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In the age of social media you can bet the revolution will be televised in one way or another, and you can watch Ryan Heffington’s own contribution broadcasting across Instagram.

Dance studios throughout the state, including Heffington’s the Sweat Spot in Silver Lake, have been shut down since mid-March, so the choreographer for Sia, Florence and the Machine, FKA twigs and films such as Baby Driver took his dance classes online in a donation-based program that first aided his own staff—and has since raised thousands of dollars for civil-rights–focused groups.

The format is simple and the vibe, undeniably fun: Dancers of all levels tune in to Heffington’s personal Instagram account three times a week and around the world to dance it out to free, virtual SWEATFEST classes. You will fist pump, you will grapevine, you will pony, you will “cowboy”—thumbs tucked into the front of your waistband and with your best Old West swagger—through an hour or so of cardio-centric, mood-boosting moves set to house beats and Heffington’s sizable ’stache. 

Donations can be made through Heffington’s PayPal account, and select classes or entire weeks of SWEATFEST have benefited organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Today, Heffington announced a “dance to end police brutality” action plan where he’ll donate proceeds from this next week of classes to Campaign Zero, an initiative to abolish and reform violent police practices through data analysis, legislation and education.

The choreographer raised more than $30,000 for the NAACP throughout last week, and in late May, a $20 one-off class helped out World Central Kitchen; in April he led a class that fundraised for the Child Mind Institute—notably with actress and CMI board of directors member Emma Stone dancing along.

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You can catch Heffington teaching at 10am on Tuesdays and Thursdays and at noon on Saturdays, via his own account, while instructor Zac Wood commandeers the studio’s Instagram Live channel for SWEATFEST classes at noon on Sundays. If you can’t tune in at those exact times, don’t sweat it, so to speak: The virtual classes can be viewed for up to 24 hours on both accounts, and you can even take a few of the archived classes under the IG TV tab on Heffington’s page. And, given the worldwide popularity of SWEATFEST’s Instagram Live debut, a rep for the Sweat Spot owner says that we can all expect it to continue virtually in some form even after the dance studio reopens for its IRL classes. 

Those looking to dance it out in other ways can find the studio’s virtual class schedule here, which includes options like contemporary ballet, barre class, hip-hop and cardio jazz. Some of the non-SWEATFEST classes help to fundraise, too: Earlier today, Destiny Ninja led a virtual beginner’s voguing session that donated to the Peoples City Council Freedom Fund.

Heffington has also been vocal about supporting dance teachers of color and black-owned businesses, and the Grammy-nominated choreographer shared a few of his favorite L.A.-based operations with Time Out L.A., recommending Maurice Harris’s Bloom + Plume café in Historic Filipinotown, and classes led by the Sweat Spot’s own Brendan Montgomery; he also recommends following and supporting choreographer Fatima Robinson, dancer Jermaine Spivey and choreographer Jaquel Knight.

The Sweat Spot is located in Silver Lake at 3327 Sunset Blvd. You can find its virtual dance schedule here.

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