By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
During our student days, there were some classes where it seemed a miracle we passed at all, but the Center for Remembering & Sharing offers a class in miracles themselves. This nondenominational center aims to communicate a "complete self-study spiritual thought system." A sample curriculum: "The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love's presence, which is your natural inheritance."
Soho may seem more like the go-to place for shoes than for wellness and insight, but Trimurti, located just above Dean & Deluca, aims to alter that perception. Its weekly Healing Circle, taught by Kay Dougherty and Joseph A. Young each Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m., includes "working with prayer, breath, chanting, sacred sounds, and silent meditations to help open the heart, bring clarity, and promote healing. Once the space has been cleared with the power of love, peace, and light, a shamanic journey will begin." How nice that the neighborhood offers a therapy other than the retail one.
Theater & Performing Arts
What could possibly bring attorneys, advertisers, and salespeople together in the same room? No, not product liability, but rather improv classes of the sort offered by Chicago City Limits. Located in our fair city rather than the windy one, the improv group insists that its acting classes can not only provide onstage fun, but also aid such professionals in their chosen careers by helping develop creativity and quick thinking.
Uta Hagen and her husband Herbert Berghof insisted upon Respect for Acting. While Ms. Hagen and her paramour are no longer around to afford you that respect, the studio that she long served at is. HB Studios, now 63 years old, offers more than 100 courses every term, including tutorials in "acting, voice, musical theater, dance, movement, improv, fencing, writing, and stage combat."
Mama's got a brand-new bag. Or she will after attending the "Build a Bag Workshop" at Flirt Brooklyn in Carroll Gardens. In the course of three hours, even those who have never sewn before will create a cotton tote while learning various stitching skills. Graduates can then work their way up to apron making, hat making, and the creation of the "Flirt Skirt."
If you've cleared off space on your shelf for your National Book Award but don't seem any closer to actually winning it, you might consider classes at the Writers Studio in New York. It boasts among its alumni Jennifer Egan and Martin McPhee, both nominated for the prize, and Walter Mosley, who serves on the studio's board of directors. For the last 21 years, the studio has offered intimate workshops aiding in the development of students' poetry and fiction.
"Poetry," said Shelley, "is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted." But perhaps your mirror could use a bit of polish. You might instill your writing with some rhyme and reason via poetry classes offered at the Gotham Writers' Workshop. The courses concentrate on the creation and development of new poems, while one-day workshops work on particular aspects of the trade, such as imagery, sound, forms, analysis, and that trickiest of skills, getting published.
The Ash Can School of art, with its focus on the gritty and the urban, emerged in the first decade of the 20th century. One hundred years on, the Ashcan Studio in midtown offers courses for the budding artist, helping develop skills in perspective, proportion, composition, and color, and introducing students to media such as oil, acrylic, gouache, charcoal, and those jolly pastel crayons.
Perhaps your flourishing career prevents you from enrolling full-time at the New York Academy of Art, "the first graduate school in the United States devoted exclusively to the study of the human figure." But if you can't bear to leave your acrylics, charcoals, or chisel in your storage unit, you might figure on enrolling in one of the academy's two- to five-day small-group workshops. Recent workshops have included seascape painting, portrait painting, a sculpture marathon, and the anatomy of the horse. Saddle up, hobbyists.
Stop clowning around. Or at least learn how to do it properly. Brooklyn Arts Exchange in Park Slope offers a course in physical comedy for children ages seven to 10. Students will learn how to delight their peers and horrify nearby adults as they show off their newly acquired abilities in miming, pratfalls, and tumbling, "as well as stunts on and around chairs and tables." Let's hope there's sturdy furniture at home. BAX also boasts classes in dance, drama, and music for all kids, from infants to teenagers.
This fall, Billy Elliott, that charming tale of a young lad who escapes his brutal surroundings through the promise of ballet, arrives on Broadway. Likely your boy isn't the son of coal miners suffering in 1980s Britain, but if you nevertheless want him to take up ballet, you might send him to Ballet Academy East. They offer classes for children as young as two years old, progressing to classes for older children and teens. Graduates have danced with a variety of local and national ballet companies.
Congratulations, budding auteur. You've somehow secured enough talent, funding, and willing crew to shoot your film. But before you start shopping that reel around to studios and festivals, there's more work to do. Manhattan's Power Image Workshop can perhaps make that post-production work somewhat easier. Its small classes instruct students in the niceties of Final Cut Pro, Avid, and After Effects.
What with the delights of YouTube, eBay, and various online games, you may think time spent in front of your computer is already sufficiently animating. If not, you might consider Pratt Institute's offerings in computer animation, including an introduction to stop-motion animation, Max fundamentals, and a seminar on texturing. With Pratt's excellent faculty and facilities, there should be nothing cartoonish about these courses.
Perhaps you've acquired some amount of Spanish from high-school classes or work in restaurant kitchens. Why not practice it while enjoying literature, film, or a tasty glass of Rioja? In addition to Spanish courses, the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute offers a book group, a film club, and La Tertulia Cultural, an informal conversational group that features booze. What's Spanish for in vino veritas?
It has always been my girlish dream to have an accent akin to that of a Bond villain. I could make that childhood yen a reality—and perhaps learn how to get better service at my favorite Slavic bars—were I to take Russian classes at ABC Language Exchange. In addition to private tutoring and online classes, ABC offers beginning classes in that euphonious tongue.
Retirees with time on their hands can keep those hands busy with the group classes offered by Elder Craftsmen. Courses are offered every spring and fall and may include such pursuits as greeting cards, yarn necklaces, and the rather bizarre-sounding "Fiber Bead People." (We prefer our people enfleshed, but otherwise it all sounds charming.)
Unlike the man-eating plant that characterized the Little Shop of Horrors, the Little Shop of Crafts prefers the charming to the carnivorous. In its beading workshops—wherein all materials are provided—students will learn to make colorful adornments such as chain-mail bracelets, fringe earrings, and bling rings, with no risk of injury or death.
New York offers a surprising number of public golf courses. (And some private ones, too. But there you probably don't get to play alongside off-duty police officers and firefighters dragging wheelie coolers. So what's the point, really?) If you'd like to visit the green, but you ain't got that swing, you might consider signing up for a tutorial at the Randall's Island Golf Center. Its three pros will improve your form, while the pro shop will handle your club fitting and club repair.
Fall flowers include bright marigolds, lush chrysanthemums, scarlet salvia, ornamental kale, and flowering cabbages. If you'd like them to look as nice on your table as in your garden, the New York Flower School can help. Classes for beginners and more advanced students, as well as one-off workshops, take on such topics as "hand-tied bouquets, Biedermeier bouquets, minimalist design, and designing with specific flowers."
The Staten Island Botanical Garden is best known for its Chinese Scholar's Garden, designed to echo the 15th-century saying that "the garden is created by the human hand, but should appear as if created by heaven." The garden also offers an assortment of heavenly sounding courses for children and adults. This fall's grown-up offerings include "Orchid Culture," "Decorating for Thanksgiving," and "Herbal Holiday Crafts."
Most New Yorkers could comfortably put "shopping" in the skills section on their résumés. Once you've spent afternoons navigating the farmers' markets, searching the Century 21 shelves, and elbowing other women aside at the Barneys Warehouse Sale, you might consider yourself an expert. But fashionistas with a liking for looks of the past might consider the Fashion Institute of Technology's "Star Quality Vintage Shopping" offering. This two-day course includes both theory and practice, as "part of both sessions is spent out in the field, strengthening your critical eye and discovery skills."
A picture is allegedly worth a thousand words, and if you'd like those words to be much nicer and more complimentary (rather than, say, "Oh my God, I don't really look like that, do I?" and 989 more like it), you might consider the New York Institute of Photography's "Digital Photography Complete Course: Adobe Photoshop for Photographers." Students in this self-paced course will learn to put their best faces forward, receiving instruction in how to take digital photos, retouch them, and then post them on the Web.