By Deborah Searle.
If you’re planning to take class in LA, then you’re bound to go to EDGE Performing Arts Center. And if you don’t have EDGE on your list of must dos, you should. EDGE is world renowned as a professional training facility for commercial dance. Established in 1992, EDGE offers beginning through professional open classes 7 days a week, 350 days a year. Class styles include Jazz, Ballet, Tap, Hip Hop, Jazz Funk, Contemporary Jazz, Modern Fusion, Theatre Dance, Cabaret, Breakin’, Movement for Actors, Turns, Salsa, Belly Dancing, and Yoga.
EDGE is home to a who’s who roster of industry choreographers, teachers and performers. They have worked with entertainers including Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, Rihanna and Justin Timberlake among others. Their choreography has been featured in countless music videos, commercials, television shows, films, concerts and stage productions. They have also appeared with the American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Cleveland Ballet and the Tokyo Ballet.
Executive Director Bill Prudich is a pillar of the industry and the LA dance scene. “I’ve been here since 81, we opened in 92 and honestly there are so many great people whose careers we’ve been involved in and introduced to the LA scene through EDGE – like Tabitha and Napoleon. We showed them off first”, he explains. “There’s this sense of community in LA that’s bloomed from EDGE. I’m really proud of it. I don’t talk a lot about it but at the end of the day the dancers and choreographers are out there doing the talking. Carol, Randy and I are proud of this place”, he says, referring to his co-Directors Carol Connors and Randall Allaire.
So what makes EDGE so successful? “Our aim is education – preparing dancers to transition from high school or college to their professional careers. EDGE provides an opportunity for students to come and work directly with our teachers, such as Mandy Moore, Sonya Tayeh, Tabitha and Napoleon, Tovaris Wilson and Bobby Newberry, where they can develop a relationship with these teachers. And it gives those teachers a chance to choreograph from their heart”, Bill explains. “It’s a great place for both sides of the equation – not just for a student to come, but for teachers to teach.”
And EDGE isn’t only for the drop in student, but also for the highly dedicated dancer, striving to take their training to the next level. EDGE provides a world renowned scholarship program with a long history of successful graduates. “We give away 20 full time scholarships a year to dancers from completely divergent backgrounds from all over the country”, explains Bill. “They are fully directed programs. We look at each student and determine their strengths and then really spend the time on their weaknesses.” Bill justifies why they focus on their students’ weaknesses; “there’s always going to be somebody who’s a little prettier, or who can kick a little higher, or turn a little more, so you cannot rest on your laurels or be really good at only one thing.”
With 17 classes a week, plus three two and a half hour workshop classes exclusively for the lucky scholarship students, EDGE provides an intense and holistic training program. “In the workshop classes we’ll do anything from injury prevention, to improvisation, acting, voice, dance history, or partnering. The program covers the whole shebang though all different styles and it goes for 1 year,” adds Bill.
But what happens to the students after this intense year at EDGE? “The studio performs a showcase at the end of July. Many industry professionals and all the agencies attend. After the show the agencies come in and work with the dancers and then sign them. All 20 kids got signed this year. The percentage is always really high”, he boasts.
And boast he should, as EDGE under Bill, Carol and Randall’s careful eye has truly made a mark on the LA dance scene and the world’s dance stage, thanks to the team’s hard work and dedication. “I am a true believer that the person who works hard and stays focused will find their place”, Bill shares. “It may not be what they imagined, but you just have to be open to see where you belong, as much as where you want to be. Mandy Moore is a perfect example. Mandy auditioned for scholarship and didn’t get in, but she stayed here and worked with us. She started out working out on the conventions selling t-shirts and then unveiled this tremendous gift for teaching and choreographing. Then the next thing I knew she was teaching and choreographing!”
EDGE Performing Arts Center provides a platform where you can find your place in the industry. As a dancer, the variety of classes, caliber of faculty, and friendly non-competitive atmosphere, puts EDGE at the top of my studio list.