Ryan Heffington's Instagram dance classes are the ultimate release in isolation

The choreographer, known for his work with Christine and the Queens and Sia, broadcasts daily from his living room.

by Jack Sunnucks
27 March 2020, 5:16pm

Photo Nio Vardan

“Dance is accessible to anyone and everyone, if they’re dancing on their own,” says choreographer Ryan Heffington, best known for his genre-expanding work with Sia, and the iconic routine on Netflix series The OA. Until recently, however, if you wanted to dance with the man himself, you’d have to go to his L.A. studio, the Sweat Spot, attend one of his classes in NY, or I guess just dance along to one of the videos he choreographed (Christine and the Queens’ “La Vita Nuova” is emblematic of his insane experimental style). For the last week, however, prompted by both his self-isolation in his home, and the fact we’re all dancing on our own, Heffington has taken to Instagram Live to get thousands of people dancing together in a spirit lifting dance class. “I'm the DJ, I'm the ringleader, and hopefully bring a little bit of inspiration into it as well.” he says over the phone. “I'm just sitting around here. I'd rather be teaching, and I'd rather be sharing it with people.”

Heffington’s class is an exercise in sharing, whether it be the man himself throwing himself around his living room for his audience, the donations that come in for his team at the Sweat Spot who can't work, or the many people who FaceTime, or Zoom, or Houseparty with their friends while following his routine. “This ‘class technique’ is a little bit different than what I normally teach,” he says. “It's a little bit less choreographic, and it's basic and accessible. I've always wanted to do this kind of follow along workout,” which calls to mind an energetic workout video with a quasi-spiritual bent. Heffington cycles through high energy Pop routines, R&B slowdowns, and the odd classic (ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”), before a cool down where he asks his audience to imagine lifting off the earth and dispelling the horrors of the day. “I literally have said in interviews 10 years ago, ‘I would love to make the world dance.’ and it's happening. I'm getting emotional, but it's really special that I get to share my gift to people, and people are loving it, and they're getting something out of it. It's just a win win all across the board, spiritually, physically, mentally. Dance is so fucking healing.”

It’s also really really fun, obviously. The “Hot Pepper,” which as a dance novice is my favourite move, involves fanning your mouth furiously. Other classics include a standard turn across the room, which is less difficult than you’d think in a tiny apartment, alongside feeling yourself as you sashay towards your iPhone camera, imaginary mic in hand, and a lot of arms in the air ( a lot -- it’s very physical and leaves one sore). “I think about what's fun, what's easy, what's possibly just challenging enough,” he laughs when queried about the aforementioned turns, which don’t come naturally at first. “People are asking, ‘How do you do those turns? It looks so easy on you.’ Tomorrow I'm going to address that. Let's learn how to turn, something that I learned the first year in dance class when I was six. It's these challenges, but they're simple. Then once you get it, you're going to feel good about your body.” I can attest that four sessions in I am turning, if not elegantly, then at least with confidence. Thank God nobody can see.

Find out when Ryan's next class is on his Instagram.

ryan heffington