In the 20+ years that Robin Antin’s work has been in pop consciousness, she’s never had her own dance space. For Kenny Wormald, acting and teaching around the world were his focus. Yet the two long-time friends, in a moment of creative synergy, decided to partner on a studio that came to life on Melrose just a few months later. Playground LA is a fresh, fantastic workshop where the pros make things happen, students learn from the best, and the public can join in to get hot, sexy, and fit.
L.A native Robin Antin is a multifaceted entrepreneur who most famously created The Pussycat Dolls in 1995. The live burlesque-inspired show featuring celebrity guests started at the Viper Room, moved to the Roxy, then went worldwide when Interscope Records signed a girl group version featuring Nicole Scherzinger. 20 million albums later, the Dolls brand extended to a Vegas casino, a TV show, fitness DVDs, a lingerie collection, and more.
While growing this girl power empire, Robin never gave up the dance. She choreographed for American Idol, The Tonight Show, The Emmys, and The Academy Awards. She formed and choreographed two other girl groups, platinum-selling Girlicious and the newest, GRL. So with this international profile, what could possibly come next? Something local. Explained Robin, “I’ve been in this for so long, and have been working out of my home. I’ve always wanted to have my own creative space.”
In South Boston, Kenny Wormald was a kid dancing in the living room to Michael Jackson videos. His mom signed him up for dance classes, which he continued through high school even while playing baseball and football. He graduated in June of 2002, was in L.A. by September, and booked his first gig (The Drew Carey Show) a week later. He joked, “I called mom and told her I don’t need to go to college.” But to be reasonable, he got a job at the mall. He then booked a Madonna video and quit the job at the mall.
Within five years, Kenny had danced for the biggest pop stars including Mariah Carey and Justin Timberlake, was featured on JLo’s Dance Life on MTV, and starred in the movie Center Stage: Turn It Up. The dancing-acting one-two punch landed Kenny the lead in a major feature film, the 2011 Footloose remake with Julianne Hough. In his quickly growing movie career, Kenny killed Harvey Keitel, smuggled drugs, and learned how to drum to play a Beach Boy. But “teaching was always the through line. I never stopped teaching. But I never thought I’d open a dance studio in L.A.”
Kenny met Robin in 2002, when he was called in to play a sailor boy at a Pussycat Dolls show. “We were kind of ‘moving scenery.’ I was 18 and kissing Scarlett Johanssen’s neck!” he recalls. They maintained a relationship for 15 years, but the decision to open a space together “happened so fast. We just decided to go for it,” said Robin. “Then I was inspired to find the space.”
She continued, “I grew up here and knew Melrose was a great street.” They both have watched it grow and change, especially in the past few years. Kenny added, “It’s a “proper walking street, with cool restaurants; it’s like New York City here on weekends.”
The construction process was a labor of love not just by Robin and Kenny, but by family and friends. “I can’t even change my oil, but turned into my dad and literally became a construction worker. It was a pride thing,” said Kenny. Robin remembers the commitment level. Her brother Neil was involved, then they got a bunch of dancer friends to help with a paint party. The result is a warm, vibrant space that reflects the passion and intent of its owners.
February 7, 2017 was opening day for Playground LA. It was an audition rental that generated a line around the block, and a lot of attention from the neighborhood. And then, according to Robin, “it was one thing after another. Amazing flow!” The space is constantly rented during the day, thanks to industry word-of-mouth. The room is large and airy, flexible and industrial-looking, with well-padded wooden floors to protect dancers.
And there is no mistaking how important the dancers are to Robin and Kenny. The foundation of Playground LA is convenience, diversity, and safety. To that end, classes are in the evening, for ages 9 and up, and led by the best teachers in the business. Kenny’s classes include Thursday night hip-hop with a live drummer. Robin will soon be launching her 8-week intensive Pussycat Dolls workshop which combines fitness with sexy PCD choreography. “I’ve never done this before. But I’ll get to see amazing dancers, and maybe even create something new from it!”
While experienced dancers will be well-supported and challenged, beginners are just as welcome with starter classes and some without choreography. Robin encourages everyone to explore the benefits of dance. “You’ll start to understand what this is. You’ll feel it in your body. It attaches to the music. And while you’re having fun, it changes your body.”
Regular pricing is competitive, with packages that average $14/class and less. A SAG/AFTRA discount is $12/class. Incredibly, there’s a one-time only intro offer of 10 classes for $60. Private lessons are also available.
Robin and Kenny both consider Playground LA an extension of home. And in just a few months, Playground LA has connected itself to the pulse of Melrose Avenue. Kenny notes, “The social and artistic aspect of this place is amazing.” Which makes it the perfect addition to the neighborhood.