Athletic Garage

A Field Guide to Adult Hip-Hop Dance Classes in Los Angeles. For beginners to professional dancers. Explore new classes and dance studios!...

  • About The Studio
  • Meet The Director
  • Studio Details
  • Visiting The Studio

About the Athletic Garage

The Athletic Garage in Pasadena, CA, offers dance and fitness classes in a beautiful converted garage, complete with a bright yellow roll-up garage door. The inside of the studio is clean and spacious, with a sprung wood dance floor and mirrored wall. You might easily forget you’re in a garage—except when the studio rolls the door up on pretty summer days!

Owner Sandy Portaro, a believer in lifelong fitness through dance, offers classes for all ages of adult and beginners to professionals. The Athletic Garage welcomes both people who are already in shape and those who could be more fit with dance in their life! A former registered nurse, Sandy emphasizes wellness and injury prevention in the studio’s program.

The studio rolls the door up on pretty summer days!

Sandy teaches a morning core conditioning and stretch class herself, and the studio offers Pilates. But at the Athletic Garage, targeted protective strength work for dancers is also an integral part of the dance program. Many of the dance technique classes are geared toward strengthening the dancer’s body, and particularly muscles that help prevent injury.

At the core of the studio’s offerings is a wide selection of choreography and technique classes. The Athletic Garage offers adult hip-hop classes at all levels. Also frequently taught are dance styles including ballet, jazz, modern, contemporary, and salsa, capoeira angola, and the studio’s Technique Intensive (an ongoing class). Many instructors also teach at L.A.’s top professional studios.

The Athletic Garage offers a scholarship program for promising young adult dancers ages 18-26, with auditions for limited spaces held each August. Scholarship students are required to take a rigorous schedule of 13-15 classes per week at the studio. Those same classes designed to develop promising pre-professional dancers are open to the general public. In fact, if you can afford a monthly unlimited dance pass, you can study the same curriculum the scholarship program offers.

Sandy is often seen not only behind the desk, but in class at her studio. Before her second hip replacement, she says, she was taking almost as many classes as the scholarship students. This passionate dancer and former RN has been on both sides of medicine: in addition to having both hips replaced, she’s had reconstructive surgery on both ACLs (an important ligament in the knee). Still going strong, Sandy doesn’t believe you’re ever too old to dance.

Hip-hop dancers at the Athletic Garage range from young people seeking a creative outlet, to pre-professional dancers in serious training, to even a few 50-somethings who enjoy the studio’s beginning hip hop. Catering to all ages and levels, the Athletic Garage strives to provide a welcoming environment for its diverse clientele and offers very different class programs to meet the needs of very different dancers.

For those simply seeking a fun exercise class, dance fitness favorites at the studio includezumba, popular with adult students for its standardized, easy-to-follow moves, andCardioFunk.CardioFunk is like a hip-hopzumba, Sandy says, using repeating hip-hop moves instead of complex choreography. And for balanced fitness, the studio provides training in all three areas Sandy believes are required to stay fit: strength, flexibility, andcardio.

Located on a quiet, leafy side street near Old Town Pasadena, the Athletic Garage is set far back from the street. As you approach, you can spot it by the colorful dance and fitness-themed banners flying alongside the parking lot entrance. When you pull up, the bright yellow garage door will tell you you’re in the right place.

Adult Beginners and the Brain

For adult beginners, dance builds new neural pathways in the brain.

It takes some time for what’s learned to get down to the muscles of an adult beginning dancer, Sandy says. Kids pick things up so fast. And the expectations and the ego aren’t there for kids. Adults who want to learn dance have all those things competing against them.

If they don’t get something the first time, she says, many adults feel that they’ve failed, that they can’t do it.

Where do they get that from? Sandy asks. They didn’t learn to ride a bike right away. You get up, you fall, you get up, you fall, and then suddenly you’re riding and you don’t know how you got there. That’s how it is with dance.

“The brave adult that wants to take a choreography class, I really consider them brave,” Sandy says. “Because it does take a lot of memory. And as you get older, you don’t use your brain that much for memory, you just don’t. But choreography, not only do you have to learn how to move, so you’re using your cerebellum for coordination, but then you’re also using your cerebrum to sequence those moves together, so you have to memorize the movements. And that’s tough. And that takes commitment, you know? Consistency.”

Adult beginners often want to be at the studio all the time, right away, Sandy says. But many burn themselves out. Why not start by taking a dance class once a week? she suggests. Just be consistent; give it time and you’ll start getting it.

Dancing at the Playground

When she was growing up on the East Coast, Sandy says, there were structured playgrounds with activities. And one activity she couldn’t get enough of was dance.

Every summer, the children from each playground would get together and perform a big show in the center of town.

“We had little dresses, and I remember my mother ironing it and the smell of the iron while it was being ironed . . . the material,” Sandy says.

Once Sandy was chosen to perform at the city park, in a half-shell. But she never had a place like the Athletic Garage.

Some of the kids who dance here say to me, “If I don’t come here, where am I gonna go? What do I do? Sit in front of the TV?” Sandy says.

So she loves being able to give kids a constructive outlet and a place to dance.

Adult Dance Students Perform, Too

A newer focus at the Athletic Garage is performance. Many adult dancers would like to perform, Sandy says, but don’t get the opportunity.

At the Athletic Garage, students don’t need to pass a Hollywood audition or look like they belong in a music video to dance in front of an audience. Dancers and choreographers of a wide span of ages and body types strut their stuff and exhibit their creativity on the Athletic Garage stage during the studio’s three big annual performances.

First, like many studios, each winter the Athletic Garage puts on a holiday show. Then in spring comes the World of Dance Showcase, named because it represents many different styles of dance generating from the studio. The spring show is the studio’s biggest fundraiser for its scholarship program.

The Athletic Garage loves performances and really gets in theme. The 2011 World of Dance Showcase was a “Circus of Dance” complete with a tent, a ringmaster, and themed dances and skits. Acts included everything from ballroom dance to martial arts and hip hop on stilts, and a refreshment stand offered popcorn and cotton candy.

The Athletic Garage’s newest show is the summer Calle Caliente, which the studio describes as “a provocative dance theatre.”

The studio decided to make this show a mature audience (age 18+) event, Sandy says, “since artist and audience alike seem to enjoy a show that perhaps exceeds the limits of a family show.”

In 2010, Calle Caliente took place in the evening and included a reception with wine.

A Nurse Returns to Huntington Hospital

The Athletic Garage offers fitness classes at Huntington Hospital, located just blocks from the studio, through the hospital’s wellness program for employees.

We started with kundalini yoga, Sandy says. But I thought Pilates would also appeal to people. It has more core work and more movement. So we added Pilates, and the employees loved it.

Now retired from nursing, Sandy enjoys being affiliated with Huntington Hospital once again. And in the month of May, she says, the Athletic Garage participates in the hospital’s Nurses’ Week celebration.


Meet Sandy Portaro

Athletic Garage owner Sandy Portaro’s understanding of dance fitness and injury prevention is informed by her experience as a registered nurse. She’s her own best customer, she says, working out and taking classes at the Athletic Garage every day. Sandy and her husband love to travel, especially to destinations where they can enjoy skiing and other sports.



All the Details: The Athletic Garage

Contacting the Studio

Phone and E-Mail

Reply turnaround for e-mail is normally same day.

You can reach the Athletic Garage by phone during class hours. Reply turnaround for a voice message is normally same day or next day.

Studio Hours

The studio’s hours are the same as class hours.

Social Media

Twitter (Athletic_Garage)

As of June 2011, the Athletic Garage is now active on Twitter! The studio tweets about each day’s upcoming classes.

Facebook Profile

The Athletic Garage is very active on Facebook! The studio posts daily updates and uploads lots of class videos.

MySpace Profile

The studio is less active on MySpace. However, you can find a bit of introductory information on the Athletic Garage and several embedded videos.

YouTube Channel

As of late 2010, the Athletic Garage hasn’t been active on Youtube in about a year. However, the studio has a selection of past videos from Brim and Mayumi’s hip-hop classes uploaded. And the top video, which loads by default, is a 2-minute introduction that gives a studio tour, shows a variety of Athletic Garage dancers in action, and names many of the studio’s class offerings.

The studio uploads many videos to its Facebook profile, and this is probably the best place to look for Athletic Garage videos.

Studio News

Garage Talk

The Garage Talk section of the studio’s web site is a good place to look for updates on monthly promotions, shows, events, upcoming sessions, and other Athletic Garage happenings. You may also find the studio’s monthly promotions on the home page.

Athletic Garage E-Mail List

The studio has an e-mail list and sends out news e-mails to the Athletic Garage community.

How to Join the E-Mail List

Anyone can join the Athletic Garage e-mail list by e-mailing the studio and asking to be subscribed. Visitors to the studio can also join by adding their name and e-mail address to the list kept on the studio’s front desk, in the lobby.

Class Information

Class Schedule

The class schedule is available online (see class schedule link under Studio Info in sidebar).

Information on substitute teachers is not posted online, but people who attend a class regularly are usually phoned before a sub is appointed to a class.

Class Prices

Drop-in class price is included in each class listing on the Athletic Garage Schedule page. Class package rates are listed below the schedule.

Attendance Options

The adult hip-hop classes are ongoing drop-in classes.

Long-Term Ongoing Specials and Affordable Options

Always check with the studio to make sure offers are current.

The Athletic Garage offers monthly promotions, which are posted on the home page or Garage Talk section of the web site.

In addition to discounted class packages, the studio offers a monthly all-you-can-dance pass. For a set price, you can take as many classes as you wish during the month!


Visiting the Athletic Garage

Printable Versions

For a printable PDF with visitors’ information, see Downloads section in sidebar.

Policies and Things to Know

Being on Time

The studio is flexible on arrival time.

Age Range

The minimum age for adult hip-hop classes is normally 16. Dancers 13 and older may take beginning-level adult hip-hop classes.

Class Payment

The Athletic Garage accepts cash and in-state checks. Please arrive in time to pay before class. Please note, the studiodoes notaccept credit cards.

Class Observation Policy

You may observe class. Recording is permittedonlywith the consent of the instructor.

Information for First-Time Students

The Athletic Garage wants first-time students to know this is a friendly, relaxed, and noncompetitive studio. Many types of people, from those who dance for fun to professionals, take classes here. Everyone is welcome at the Athletic Garage!

Water and Snacks


The studio sells refrigerated bottled water at the front desk. (Price was $2 at last check.) There’s also a water fountain.


The Athletic Garage has snacks such as granola bars, chocolate bars, and fruit gummies available for purchase at the front desk.

Food Preparation

The studio has a microwave oven and refrigerator.

Restaurant Meals

The Athletic Garage is blocks from Old Town Pasadena, a nice shopping and dining district. Everything from snacks to fine dining is within walking distance.

However, food isn’t available in the immediate vicinity (a block or two) of the studio. So you can’t run next door and buy something before class.

Studio Features and Amenities

Changing for Class

The studio has two single-occupancy restrooms located just inside the main dance studio. One is women’s and one is unisex. The restrooms are spacious and offer an excellent option for changing for class.

Waiting Areas and Lounges

The Athletic Garage has a spacious lobby with plenty of seating. There’s also a nice outdoor lounge area directly in front of the studio, with tables, chairs, and large sun umbrellas.

Dance Floors

The Athletic Garage has sprung wood dance floors.

Lighting Features

The Athletic Garage has spot lighting and and a dance globe.

Health Services

The Athletic Garage is located within several blocks of an excellent hospital, Huntington Hospital.

Navigating to the Studio

Travel Alert: One-Way Street at West End of Block

If you overshoot the Athletic Garage heading west, you may want to turn around before you reach the end of the street. Otherwise you’ll have to turn right and circle the block, because Pasadena Ave is a northbound one-way street.

Finding the Studio

The Athletic Garage is set far back from the street. It’s located toward the west end ofWaverlyDr, on the north side.

If approaching from the east (from Fair Oaks Ave), keep an eye out for colorful dance andfitness-themedbanners flying above the black wire mesh fence. (They’re not as easy to spot coming from the other direction.)

Once directly in front of the Athletic Garage, from the street you can see

  • The studio’s street number, 121, on the fence.
  • The bright yellow garage door. (Or the door may be rolled up.)
  • A big Athletic Garage logo on the side of the building.

See sidebar for an image of the studio’s logo.

Parking Options

Parking Lot

The Athletic Garage has a parking lot right in front of the studio with about eight spaces.

Free Street Parking

When parking, always check street signs on the block to verify details.

There’s generally plenty of unmetered, unrestricted parking on both sides of the studio’s street, Waverly Dr.

Public Transportation

The Athletic Garage by Subway

The Athletic Garage is within easy walking distance of the L.A. Metro Gold Line’s Del Mar station. See Downloads in the profile sidebar for a PDF including walking directions to the studio. It’s only a few blocks from the subway!

The Athletic Garage by Bus

The L.A. Metro bus has good service to the heart of Old Town Pasadena, within easy walking distance of the studio.

You may well be able to find a connecting bus for the last several blocks from Old Town to the studio if needed, as the studio’s north/south cross street to the east, Fair Oaks Ave, is a major street.


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