An Interview with Millennium Dance Complex

When I first started dancing, I knew very little about North Hollywood.

I was immersed in the eclectic dance community that lives south of Sunset. My movement was cultivated by taking classes at Debbie Allen’s Academy, doing shows for Lulu Washington, and being the most epic mascot at Crenshaw High School.

Once things started rolling, I became even more addicted to honing my skills as a performer. My then manager and a few friends would tell me, “You need to train at Millennium. That’s where it’s really poppin!”

Once I did some research, going to Millennium became my #1 priority!

Millennium Dance Complex is an iconic dance studio that has lived on Lankershim Blvd. for the last 17 years. They recently celebrated their 25 year anniversary in June. Dancers from all over the world flock to North Hollywood just to be in the midst of some of the most influential instructors and entertainers. Instructors’ videos go viral within hours when classes are posted online. Life-long friendships and career altering moments are a glimpse of the highs and lows that live within these walls.

Noted choreographers like Cris Judd, Tina Landon, Anthony Thomas, and Mia Michaels helped build the foundation of diverse curriculum Millennium is known for. Larger classes were held in “The Dome”; which was an enormous creative space with vaulted ceilings and recessed lighting that was like a sanctuary of sweat. Celebrity clients like Jennifer Lopez, Janet Jackson, Usher, Christina Aguilera, and yes even Beyoncé have all spent numerous hours perfecting their craft right here in the NoHo Arts District. To the dance community, it was the heart beat of the area.

Now as the studio settles in to a new chapter, I can’t go without knowing exactly why Millennium moved out of the neighborhood.

I tracked down Co-CEO AnneMarie Hudson who was gracious enough to grant me an interview.

L: When did Millennium open and where?

A: January 6, 1992 on Ventura and Vineland. We were there for 9 years then sold that building to move to a place in “NoHo”. It was just North Hollywood then.

L: What made you open your own studio?

A:  At the time, studios were known for specializing in a specific form and that’s how they attracted dancers. I honestly just didn’t like the vibe and the way that people were treated at some of the studios. While working at Broadway Dance Center, I got first hand insight and a chance to absorb the true spirit of the dance community. There wasn’t so much of the style separation in New York so when I came to LA, I wanted to provide dancers with somewhere more causal. How can you create with stuck up, strict energy? It never works that way. We need things to flow, to let your guard down, and chill.  I just thought “Hey…let’s DO IT ALL!! All styles of hip hop, all forms of jazz, and all levels of ballet under one roof! Letting different styles inspire each other.”

In 2004, I was introduced to Shane Sparks by way of dancers we knew mutually then again while working with B2k. He invited me to take his class at Millennium and of course I had to go! Not knowing what to expect, I threw on my baggy sweats and flannel to head to the Valley. When I got there, about 150 teenie boppers were buzzing around the parking lot anxiously waiting for the door to “The Dome” open. It was clear that everyone knew they came to take classes with the best of the best. THIS WAS SERIOUS BUSINESS.

It was at a time when paparazzi and social media we’re just beginning to take over the world. Millennium was one of the hottest spots to catch celebs. If you’re lucky, you can pass by Britney Spears walking into rehearsal or stumble on B2K holding auditions for their hit movie You Got Served. Justin Timberlake rehearsed his first tour at MDC and everyone came to take class from masters of movement.

L: When did you start to realize all eyes were on the studio?

A: When we moved to the new location, Moro Landis building, in 1999. Robert Baker came on board with an extensive background in television and movies. He’s such a great media guy! He really pushed the “brand” to the next level. Robin Antin started shooting MTV’s “Becoming” in “The Dome” and that definitely got this going. We even had helicopters flying over us during the time Britney was going through her issues. It definitely caused a terrible energy around her but MDC offered her a place of escape.

When Millennium decided to not use “The Dome” anymore, some dancers became fearful that the studio would soon lose a lot of regulars or even shut down. Where would we have all the master classes and agency meet and greets? Nonetheless, loyal studio goers never gave up! Even with renovations and room changes, they still continued to support the instructors that work tirelessly to provide them with the best training possible.

L: What happened to the Dome?

A: It actually used to be a car dealership with an upper room. The city was making the owners tear it apart and change the entire foundation. Leaks from mechanics fixing cars and changing oil had caused the structure to be deemed hazardous.

The owner just couldn’t put the city off any longer. Then the gym moved in and told us, “In a year, you can come back”. Instead of waiting, our current studios were quickly reconfigured. It was a very hard time to take on such an enormous project. This was right around 9/11 so Britney Spears, NSYNC, and other well known clients stopped doing big dance tours.

L:  So let’s get down to it. Why did MDC move? And are there any plans for the old building?

A: Well, we were kicked out. (she says with a small chuckle). The city plans to tear down the block to make room for apartments and the ground level will feature a Whole Foods grocery store. The developers are amazing and were always so considerate throughout the process. We definitely knew it was coming for two years.

It took a year to find the building and then we signed the lease. Our goal wasn’t to create a wide spread panic amongst the students and instructors so we waited a while to officially make the announcement. The building (Moro Landis) wasn’t in the best condition and needed some updates but I would’ve never moved if I didn’t have to.

Millennium could nickname its hallway “The Walk of Fame.” Everywhere you look, the studio is lined with countless autographed pictures from celebrities who have been a part of the history at the Lankershim campus. They too have fun memories of rehearsals and experiences that will last a lifetime.

Although impressive, Millennium prides itself on offering a variety of styles to students so that they have a wide range of foundation. They expand each dancer’s experience through different certificate programs and master classes with working choreographers.

L: The red walls and deep brown wood flooring are such a consistent in the brand that is Millennium. What steps did you go through to make sure that people still felt at home?

A: Nothing really. Millennium is me and decorated with my heart and love and whatever was supposed to come out did. I did debate on doing Studio X with fully white decor, but it felt too cold. I didn’t want to feel stagnant within the brand. The goal was to keep it natural, not a carbon copy. I like to follow the energy, like a child, and allow them (my inspirations) to grow.  I was that then but where am I now?  Not pulling from a marketing standpoint. Kept it as simple as “Get the teachers you want in a bigger space.”

The real estate family who owns the building of the new location designed it and over generations, has passed it to his granddaughter. It’s sentimental to them so we were offered a 20 year lease to start. They’ll never tear the building down.

I believe in energy and spiritual guidance. Out of the three buildings I saw, one just spoke to me. There was a lot of work to be done but that wasn’t the focus. Thank God it just always works out.

L: How has Millennium affected you personally?

A: The best thing is dance and to be around the TOP hot dancers. You watch young people grow and there’s no expiration date. It’s the point after they grow and now everything’s in front of them that creates perpetual happy moments of life for me. People who are around are committed and stay in it. Our job is to be a hive for them. The cleaning crews, staff, teachers, all make it possible.

It’s not having the energy of the dancers that makes the old space feels empty and dead inside. Now that we’re settling in, I feel the space will pull the people.

After speaking with AnneMarie and gaining insight from her perspective, I honestly had mixed emotions. I couldn’t fathom how the need for apartments could out trump Millennium’s deeply rooted history. This speaks directly to the ever-changing community of NoHo Arts District. Over the course of a few years, businesses have moved in and out and high-rise apartments seem to cause a continuous wave of construction every month. Metro built an underpass for Red/Orange Line passengers recently and KFC is turning into another Starbucks.  With such an evident awareness for the arts, it surprises me that having more apartments could supersede the desire to maintain the timeless values of the area, but city officials have an obligation to move North Hollywood forward.

As the saying goes, the show must go on. Now that Millennium has found a new home and NoHo is in for a complete makeover, all we can do is hold on to the memories that were made there and celebrate what’s to come!

About the Author

Come and join Luckie in the coolest dance class you will ever take…..

EVERY WEDNESDAY in NoHo Arts District at Evolution Studios – grab a few friends for this fully interactive, high energy house party! Its all about letting loose and feeling the groove of the 90s deep down in your bones!
Class opens with a 15 minute ‘watch and repeat’ style warm up aimed at improving flexibility, relieving stress through breathing techniques, and maximizing range of motion. We’ll pick up the pace with a nonstop mix of Hip Hop movements that not only improves cardio stamina and calorie burn, but strategically targets and tones ALL major muscle groups.

Some of his Industry credits….
Luckie was featured as a choreographer and onscreen dance partner for Oxygen’s hit show Dance Your A** Off where he landed a spot in the finale. His choreography/staging for the off -Broadway remake of the 1975 choreo-poem “For Colored Girls”, received two nominations from the NAACP Theatre Awards. He then had the pleasure of creative directing and choreographing promotional spot dates and television performances for Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday album including the Femme Fatale Tour, Rockin’ Dick Clark New Years Eve, and Good Morning America.