At the age of 5, Natalie Costa’s daughter was cute, lively, and photogenic—reason enough to give show business a try, she thought. But with no one to guide her and her daughter through the maze of booking auditions and getting representation, she found herself out thousands of dollars on useless portfolio shoots and manager fees. In response, Costa founded The Performers Academy, modeling the friendly, welcoming atmosphere on the dancing school she loved as a child. She made sure to stock it with instructors who had the inside knowledge she could have used at the outset: all professional actors, directors, and producers with lots of experience in film and TV and a special focus on children’s programming.
The academy caters both to kids seriously trying to break into the business and to casual enthusiasts who find performing a liberating way to build self-confidence. Age-appropriate classes deal with such key topics as managing audition stress, honing improvisational comedy skills, and projecting loud enough to be heard over that giant gong that somebody keeps bumping into.
Arthur Murray Dance Studio has been a leading name in franchise dance since 1912, when the entrepreneur began selling mail-order dance lessons. Expanding his reach, he enlisted teachers to spread his signature dance lessons on first-class steamships and skyrocketed to fame in the '30s after introducing the public to such dances as the Lambeth Walk and the Big Apple. By the 1950s, Arthur and his wife, Kathryn, were hosting their own highly popular TV show on ABC, the Arthur Murray Dance Party, which ran for 12 years. Today, Arthur Murray's team prepares students for rug cutting at special events and weekend nightclub jaunts. Clients who arrive to lessons partnerless will be paired up with an instructor as the teachers assess their current skill level and make recommendations on the most appropriate program. Throughout lessons, instructors teach the foundations of two to four dances from a long list of styles that range from Latin to country-western, helping students to learn basic step patterns, timing, and the ability to lead or follow.
Aqua Restaurant & Lounge, located within Holiday Inn Irvine Spectrum, serves up classic American cuisine as well as gourmet specialties. In the morning, breakfast platters and cups of RainForest Alliance coffee give diners enough energy to race a taxi on foot on the way to work. Later on, chefs prepare heirloom salads and signature dishes such as the Philly West, a gourmet riff on the philly cheesesteak that pairs shaved filet mignon with housemade Jack Daniels au jus and melted provolone. A full bar, 50-inch plasma TV, and sleek decor round out the hotel-lounge experience.
It would be easy to devote weeks to exploring the Renaissance ClubSport's 75,000-square-foot facility—spending afternoons lounging poolside beneath the brilliant Orange County sun and taking meals at the sleek onsite restaurant. The club is an innovative fusion of fitness center, spa, and boutique hotel, complete with luxury suites, a 12,000-square-foot fitness center, and kids' club. Fitness seekers of all squares inhabit the athletic facilities, bustling away on ellipticals or playing rounds of racquetball. Others come for the more than 100 weekly fitness classes, which include yoga, Zumba, and extreme conditioning—a high-intensity combination of weight, cardio, and plyometric exercises. The fitness center is staffed by a team of expert trainers and nutrition coaches, who can advise clients on the best routes for reaching their health and wellness goals.
After workouts, guests unwind with a soak in the whirlpool before visiting the spa for a hot-stone massage or detoxifying mud body wrap. Then, it's on to the Citrus Fresh Grill for cocktails and a light dinner of Thai chicken lettuce wraps and grilled salmon. The club even offers a camp, which provides kids with recreational and educational activities while keeping them away from less constructive pursuits, such as watching TV or trying to convince their stuffed animals to do their chores.
Boy-band juggernaut and Nickelodeon sensation Big Time Rush shines like the sun’s sons as its hotly anticipated Big Time Summer Tour enraptures flocks of fans with pop bliss. The fab foursome, known as BTR to fans and preteen stenographers, first snatched the hearts of millions with its eponymous TV show, which is the most-watched live-action series in Nickelodeon’s history. On the group's choreographed carnival of a tour, expert hoofer and crooner Kendall Schmidt leads the affable cast of personalities, which includes James (the ladies' man), Carlos (the joker), and Logan (the smarty warty), through hits from its gold debut, BTR. Chart-topping sophomore album, Elevate, also sees its anthemic tunes represented, such as “Music Sounds Better With U” and “All Over Again.” Expect elastic dance moves from the dapper quadratic and possible numbers from the just-released Big Time Movie, in which BTR covers tunes by obscure boy band The Beatles. Australian wunderkind Cody Simpson starts the show with peppy rallies and aural morality plays about how love can be tough and why stealing your dad’s head to sneak into R-rated movies isn’t cool.
The adage that "there are no small parts, just small actors" rings truest at The Center Stage Studio, where budding thespians of all ages get their share of the spotlight. Under the experienced wand of director Tracey DiMiceli, a seasoned performer and theater instructor who also helmed Malibu's prestigious "Fitness by the Sea" summer camp, young actors develop the skills to sing, dance, and deliver heartfelt Tony Award acceptance speeches in a wealth of classes and camps.
In the family-tailored musical theater camps, which feature themes reflecting popular musicals and children's shows, lil' thespians learn the fundamentals of theater technique—including blocking, projecting, and stage direction—and cultivate skills that boost self-esteem and critical thinking. Camps end with a public performance where every child gets a spot in a major musical number and receives a speaking role, curbing the theatrical tradition of jealous prepubescent understudies.
At Irvine Improv, comics lure laughs from deep within bellies while following in the footsteps of standup legends such as Ellen DeGeneres, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, and Dave Chappelle, all of whom have graced the Improv club stages. The club's calendar schedules comedians as often as six nights a week, alternating between big-name headliners and up-and-coming performers. Audience members munch on a savory menu of appetizers, entrees, burgers, and deserts while sipping specialty cocktails to avoid eye contact with the giant rubber chicken sitting at the next table.