Ryan Heffington’s Instagram dance workouts attract an average of 4,000 participants, with celebrities like Reese Witherspoon, Tracee Ellis Ross, Emma Stone and Pink among them.
The dancer and choreographer, who earned a VMA for choreographing Sia’s “Chandelier” music video, had to close his Los Angeles dance studio, The Sweat Spot, at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
So Heffington, 46, decided to move his popular exercise classes to Instagram Live, calling his series of hour-long dance sessions Sweatfest. He describes the free class — offered several times a week — as “campy, energetic and basic.”
“I think my goal is to have people forget about the grayness that we're experiencing right now,” Heffington tells PEOPLE. “And to have fun and be more childlike and actually to get joy out of a workout class, not just to sweat.”
He continues, “I just felt that it's a fun and freeing experience for students in terms of not being too stressful. There's not heavy choreography, it's pretty loose, it's basic. I just wanted to be inclusive.”
Heffington attributes Sweatfest’s popularity (some classes reach almost 8,000 viewers) to that inclusivity.
“Grandparents are doing it, and parents are doing it with their children, and people are calling their moms they're doing it with their moms wherever they happen to be around the world,” he says. “So I think it's just the super inclusive element that has propelled it to state that it's in now.”
He adds that though the class is designed for everyone, he appreciates when celebrities tune into the classes and their fans follow. Sometimes they even make guest appearances — both Emma Stone and Pink have been guest stars so far, with actress Margaret Qualley filling the role this week.
Heffington says he has been most surprised by the global response to his classes, sharing that he has seen students attend from all around the world.
“I wasn't expecting the global attendance, I thought it would be L.A., New York,” he says. “And Poland and Japan and Venezuela and all of these different countries started popping up and that just blew me away.”
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