“The evolution of Evolution”
On March 19th 2017, Evolution Studios opened its doors to the community to host a free dance day celebrating their 10 years in business!
The schedule was packed with a diverse array of classes designed to engage dancers of all levels. It’s a milestone accomplishment that rests on the laurels of personalized assistance and paying close attention to the specific needs of each client.
There’s no shortage of dance studios in North Hollywood. You can take classes in any style with instructors that are known all over the world. Of course where you train is crucial, but for many people like me who appreciate a more incognito rehearsal, it’s equally just as important to have an esoteric space of freedom to create in a peaceful environment. With countless rehearsals and private sessions being scheduled around classes, it’s usually very difficult to book rehearsal space with commercial dance studios.
I discovered Synthesis early in my career by going to an audition that was being held there.
It was located on Lankershim near the Cahuenga split a few blocks north of Universal Studios. The location gave the studio a seemingly exclusive feel since it wasn’t in our central NoHo hub. The brick facade was unassuming. The serene neighborhood of Toluca Lake and casting offices that lined the back lot offered private entry and plenty of parking. It was an oasis that was readily accessible to rent out 24 hours a day. We’d never heard of a 24/7 studio. Most of us used our living room or an empty parking space in the garage of our apartment complex to work on choreography late at night. When you got a rehearsal call time for 11 PM or later, you knew it would be at Synthesis!
Evolution Studios, then Synthesis, is probably one of the most “under-the-radar” studios in NoHo. For years, industry icons, musicians, and movie stars graced the halls and now going into their 10th year, the studio doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. With such a deep rooted history in the community, I thought it would be great to speak with Heather Aued, the studio’s Managing Director about just how far they’ve come and how the studio gained such a highly venerable reputation.
L: When did Evolution open and what was its main objective?
H: We opened in January 2007. It was previously a dance academy called Synthesis and the funny reason we bought the business is because the owner’s husband was tired of having her dance company rehearse out of their house. When the business came up for sale they jumped at the opportunity to buy it. We wanted to give the dance community a great space to create.
In the very beginning, we thought we would just continue with the academy like Synthesis was, but we kept getting calls for rentals and realized there was a big need for that in the community. So, we decided to drop the academy altogether and just specialize in being a rental facility. It helped set us apart of the other studios because we were the only one that solely focused on rentals and not an academy. We allowed teachers to rent the studios from us to teach their own classes which most academies didn’t allow.
After some time I started rehearsing at other local studios. Because I didn’t have a car at the time, I’d booked very few rehearsals at Evolution. A small part of me was unsure that the nostalgic feeling would be the same. I’d go by on the 224 (bus) as if it were a storage facility of fond memories. I rehearsed the first award show, first music video, and first overseas gig I ever choreographed there. Every room had its own personality. One studio had hanging lanterns and string lights that would shine an amber glow across the room or set a more intimate mood in the studio with a 15-foot, hand-woven tapestry hanging against an off-white painted brick wall. Having had such a consistent schedule there, I can honestly say, I missed it tremendously. When I got word that Evolution was going to be on Burbank Blvd. it was like an old friend was moving back into town.
H: We moved from the old studio in January 2015. We had outgrown the old space and were continually turning clients away because we were booked out. So, when we had the opportunity to lease this large 7000sq ft warehouse and design and build our dream studio, it was a no brainer! We’re looking forward to continued growth in the arts community in the area and making it even nicer for everyone.
A part of creating from an authentic place comes from being in an environment that allows that type of spiritual candor. We as artists want to feel like we just walked to our own pool house studio and feel the freedom to cultivate our vision. That feeling isn’t easy to accomplish. Over the years Evolution has been known to have a welcoming aura. You can sense a consistent effort to make the space not only feel comfortable but also particularly practical. Every inch is geared toward the client’s experience and budget. Offering space is just a small part. Dimmable sconces and spacious dressing rooms are some of the more obvious highlights. Walking in you’ll meet young, sophisticated and savvy staff members that always welcome you into the studio with love and excitement; as if it were their own home.
H: Another thing that’s set us apart is our friendly staff. We’ve continually been told throughout the years that we have the nicest staff and the cleanest studio. We respect people’s privacy and time and we don’t bump clients for people that we think are “more important.”
We offer many different things for our clients. First we have free Wi-Fi throughout the whole building. We have a large lounge area with a kitchen area, so clients can prepare food while they’re here. In each of the studios, we have an intercom that goes to the office. So, if they need anything they can buzz us right away and do have to waste any of their rehearsal time, walking to our office to ask for something. We also have microphones, mic stands, a keyboard, TV monitor, LED mood lighting, tripods etc that they can rent either free of charge or for a small fee to use during their bookings. Over the years we’ve taken note of what clients continued to ask for and we tried to make sure we had those amenities available. We are still working on expanding our amenities for our clients to continue to provide items they might need.
I’d just finished teaching my Old School Skinny class and as the students stood in the lobby cooling off, I heard one of them gasp! We all turned around to see what was going on. She stood there staring down the hallway at a woman who’d just walked in. We asked if everything was alright and with a gazed look of uncertainty said, “I think I just saw Missy Elliot.” All the other students quickly rubber necked around the corner to confirm but she’d already walked into rehearsal. The group laughed about it and went on with post class conversations. No more than 4 minutes later, Missy Elliot turns the corner, sees us and says, “Y’all in there killing. Do your thing!” It was such a treat for them to see a celebrity, but more so that the encounter wasn’t celebrity to fan; it was artist to artist. She seemed to be happy to come across women of all ages enjoying life and each other through dance. The group replied with a star-struck “Heeeey!!” as she continued toward the exit.
H: We also had some crazy paparazzi moments when Taylor Swift would rehearse at the old studio. Her security guards would have to call us when she was a few minutes away so we could go outside and make sure there were no paparazzi waiting. But would always still jump out from the bushes etc to try and get a shot of her.
L: Tell me a little bit about the dance day that you had and why you decided to do it.
H: We have had our annual dance day for the last three years once we moved into the new location. The first year was to celebrate the new location. The second year was our one-year anniversary of the new location and now this year is our 10-year anniversary of being in business. We like having it because it gives the community the opportunity to come out and maybe take a class with someone new that they haven’t tried before. We also feel it helps our clients build up their student base because there are all sorts of dancers trying out the classes. It’s a way for artists to network with each other and just have a great time. We are looking for all sorts of people to come out. Not just our clients but new people who have never been to the studio before and want to see what it’s all about.
L: You have some pretty epic instructors that’ll be teaching demos. How did you find them?
H: All of our instructors that will be teaching are our clients. Some teach ongoing classes at the studio and some just rent from us for random projects they have going on. But we wanted to have a nice variety of classes throughout the day. So, you will see all different styles from hip hop, to bellydance, to tap and jazz; as well as heels and Old School Skinny. We tried to have a little bit for everyone and hope that people will stay and try a variety of styles and try something new.
Before I started my demo, I met a woman named Rita who takes FUNKACIZE with Ella Joyce on Fridays. Even though she’d never heard about OSS, within two minutes she was shaking and moving with the other dancers and stayed until the very end. We ended our groove session with a track from Midnight Star that left us all out of breath. As everyone ran to their water bottles, I looked over to find Rita grinning from ear to ear telling me,” That was so much fun! I’m so glad I was here for this!” She got a chance to meet my wife and mother-in-law which immediately made it feel like family. That’s the power that Evolution posses; bringing people together through the love and connection dance evokes.
Every day there’s something new to experience at Evolution. With their steadily growing following on social media and fully booked weekly schedule, they’re a gem in our neighborhood that shines brighter every day. Generations of artists have counted on them to perfect their craft, but there’s a completely different side to Evolution that lends itself to recreational dancers as well. These classes offer people in the community a chance to forget about the woes of the world and JUST DANCE!! Now and for years to come, this studio will give birth to innovative choreography and give hope to dance lovers who thrive through movement.
Book space online for a 10% discount and follow @evolutionnoho to join the family!