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Health /Body/Wellness

Mikao Usui, the founder of Reiki, described it as “The secret art of inviting happiness, the miraculous medicine of all diseases.” As a total panacea sounds quite all right to us, we might consider learning the massage technique of Reiki, or “universal life energy.” The New York Open Center offers Reiki instruction at all levels, including Reiki 1, an introductory workshop promising “a practical tool for relaxation, balance and harmony in your life.”

Holistic medicine may have become all the rage for humans, but we can’t really see dogs, cats, and goldfish signing up for acupuncture and reflexology. But the New York Open Center disagrees, offering a five-day workshop in Tellington Touch (TT) for Animals: Foundation Training. According to the course description: “TTouch is a bodywork method . . . designed to activate the body’s deep cellular intelligence so that it can release stored memories of pain and fear that block energy and cause illness. . . . Coupled with TTouch bodywork techniques are movement and balance exercises which help animals transfer their new awareness of themselves into everyday life.” Let’s see just how self-aware Fluffy or Fido really is.


Short skirts, long skirts, baby-doll dresses, bandage dresses, heels, flats—keeping up with the latest styles can be a confusing and exhausting (and expensive) process. Happily, Parsons offers a course in Fashion Trends. Slide lectures and fashion history alternate with roundtable discussions about contemporary currents and designs.

Tom Jones may have sung, seductively, “You Can Leave Your Hat On,” but how much better it would be if that hat left on were a nice hat, perhaps one you had designed yourself. If that’s your goal, you can’t top the Fashion Institute of Technology’s course in Foundations in Headwear Design, where “students acquire basic stitching, patternmaking, and blocking skills while completing a beret, baseball cap, draped felt hat, and a one-piece blocked felt hat.”

Theater and Performing Arts

Those of you who have been impressed by recent theatrical hits such as The Exonerated, I Am My Own Wife, Guantánamo, or The Laramie Project may have a yen to produce some drama-vérité of your own. To that end, you might consider the New School’s class in Documentary Theater. We have some trepidation about the inclusion of The Vagina Monologues on the syllabus, but we’re confident students can transcend the pudendal as they “choose their own subject matter and develop individual and collaborative projects through interviews, oral histories, writing, and acting.”

Girls—and the occasional boy—don’t stop dreaming of tutus and toe shoes simply because they grow up. Those of us grown-ups who still harbor ballerina fantasies might find fulfillment at Dance New Amsterdam. If you suspect your knowledge of ballet is too lacking even for the Slow Beginner class, you might consider Martha Chapman’s Intro to Ballet Workshop. Students receive a thorough schooling in ballet vocabulary as well as instruction in basic techniques.

Most pop-culture authorities place the origins of hip-hop dance in early-1970s New York. So we’ve had at least 30 years to learn the techniques. Still haven’t mastered the intricacies of breaking, freestyle, or boogaloo? You might register for Snap, Pop & Lock at the Alvin Ailey Extension. In addition to learning “Da Jason, Da Mona Lisa, Da Bill Cosby, Da James Brown, Da Wop, Smerf, Alf, Da Kid n’ Play, Da RoofTop, Popping & Locking Drills & Combos, Top Rock, Latin Rock and Basic Breaking Skills,” students may also benefit from “Injury Prevention & Health and Wellness Tips From a Certified Personal Trainer and Life-Style Wellness Coach.””>


When I was 11 years old, I wrote a short mystery story, heavily influenced by Agatha Christie, called “Banbury Cross,” which featured a Gypsy woman, gambling debts, and a recording of a typewriter providing a false alibi. It’s a shame I haven’t nurtured such obvious talent, but I could now that I’ve discovered the Mystery Writing 10 Week Workshop at Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Would-be sleuthers will write one or two short stories, or begin work on a novel.

“Either write things worth reading or do things worth the writing,” said Benjamin Franklin. Since few of us seem to be succeeding with the latter, we may as well try the former, perhaps with the aid of’s Novel Writing: Draft Your Novel in Three Months course. The class promises that by its end you will have an 80- to 100-page draft of a novel (so maybe they should call it Novella Writing?) and learn how to outline and create characters, and “the secret behind perfect dialogue.”


What a feeling! Many of us who came of age in the ’80s associate welding inextricably with a certain Flashdance sequence, but apparently this technique is good for more than sexy montages. In Sculpture Workshop: Welding, offered at the New School, students will learn to “weld, braze, bend, and cut steel with a torch,” all for the good of the visual arts. Students will be encouraged to design their own metallic masterworks.

In case you’ve always longed to be one of those slightly creepy museum denizens armed with camp stool, drawing pad, and charcoals, Parsons can make this particular dream a reality. The school offers Drawing at the Met. Amid the very finest of fine art, students of all levels will learn drawing techniques while perched before some very impressive examples. And imagine the collection of those metal admission pins you’ll acquire!

Do you imagine yourself the next Mark Rothko, or perhaps Georgia O’Keefe (hey, someone has to take up the vagina-as-flower mantle)? They both studied at the Art Students League of New York. To get your color fields just right, you might consider a course in Painting, Color Design, or Composition, or you might perfect your floral offerings with Painting From Life, Still Life and Landscape.

Food and Drink

Medieval and Renaissance cookbooks include recipes for sea otter, sheep’s penis, cat, and a disquisition on the nutritional benefits of hedgehog. But lecturer and cookbook author Francine Segan believes there’s a lot of wisdom to be gained from historic cookery, especially as it relates to cheese. In her History of Cheese course, at Murray’s Cheese, students will learn the origins of this ancient foodstuff and taste cheeses made from age-old methods.

Wine production dates back to the Neolithic period, beginning in the Near East around 8500 B.C. Neolithic man may have enjoyed wine, but he never had to stand flummoxed amid shelves and shelves of potables or hopelessly scan a multi- page wine list. Cue NYC Wine Class and its one-night offering Wine 101. Students taste a dozen wines, accompanied by Murray’s cheeses, and “leave with a keen sense of what makes wines different along with a better understanding of what you like.”

Let’s say toast presents something of a challenge and a bowl of cold cereal begins and ends your culinary repertoire. Sure, Cap’n Crunch is a delicacy, but there’s a whole gastronomic world out there, one you can begin to taste with Cooking 101: The Course for Absolute Beginners at the Institute of Culinary Education. In three classes, you’ll go from zilch to shrimp cocktail, tomato-and-mozzarella salad, chocolate fondue, blueberry fruit crisp, pasta primavera, and chocolate pudding cake.

For Children

Apparently it’s never too early for serenity—or improved musculoskeletal flexibility. For parents who want their tots to experience the joys of the cobra, plow, and warrior poses, Citibabes offers Mini Yoga, a class in traditional yoga poses and breathing techniques for three-to-five-year-olds. We can’t imagine them laying still for Shava-asana, but we’re sure they’ll excel at “Happy Baby” pose.

When not donning mermaid outfits, singing in bathhouses, or inspiring a very delicious variety of Two Boots Pizza, Bette Midler also found time in her schedule to establish the New York Restoration Project, designed to help preserve and conserve New York City’s parks and gardens. For school-age children, the NYRP also offers instruction in Urban Ecology, Garden Science, Aquatic Science, and Oyster Farming (!).

If during the impressionable ages of eight to 12 I had attended the Bronx Zoo’s Working for Wildlife: The Bronx Zoo Guide to Careers, there might be one less journalist in the world. Horrors! And yet students may very well enjoy pizza while they learn about possible animal-oriented jobs in such fields as animal behavior, zookeeping, conservation biology, and zoo veterinary medicine. If only playing with tigers compared to compiling education listings.


Let’s say you can already converse in those appealing gutturals, but you’d like to take your knowledge of the German language and culture a step further. Deutsches Haus at NYU offers a few courses, in German, for the proficient and motivated student. Beginning in January, students—or should we say studenten?—can take either Schriftstellerinnen der Gegenwart (Authoresses of the Present)
or Berlin: Now and Then.

We are not, to the best of our knowledge, turning Japanese, we really think so, but if we were, we would doubtless spend more time at the Japan Society, which this year celebrates its centenary. In the past 100 years, it has strengthened U.S.-Japanese relations via its performances, lectures, and museum displays. It also offers a dozen language classes and several others in reading, writing, and culture. This spring’s offerings include everything from Japanese 1-A (using the textbook Japanese for Busy People, natch), Shodo I: Calligraphy, and Learn to Read Katakana.

Sure, you can direct a taxi driver, book a hotel room, and order a passable red to accompany your boeuf bourguignon, but perhaps you would like to improve and enlarge your schoolgirl or schoolboy French. In addition to regular language courses, the Alliance Française also offers classes and workshops in Yoga in French, Business French, French Through Song, Cook in French, and French Slang. Super-chic!

Crafts and Hobbies

All New Yorkers love to bitch, but not all of us know how to stitch, so there’s plenty of people eligible for the 92nd Street Y’s Beginning Knitting course. While needle exchange is often a controversial policy, this course will provide students with all relevant materials and start them on knitting projects. And that’s nothing to scarf at.

We’ve spent many a night on the tiles, but very few nights playing with tiles. We could remedy this if we drank a lot less and took a beginner or intermediate Mah Jonng Class at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan. Some credit Confucius with the invention of this great game, others date its origin to the 19th century. At any rate, we’re told it’s a highly habit-forming and engaging game—upon the outcome of which large sums of money may be bet. Oh goody, another addiction.

Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but even glass beads can make excellent pals. If you’d prefer to make your own friends, you can adorn yourself with the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Bauble, Bangle, and Bead Stringing course. In addition to making your own earrings, you’ll “produce quality pieces, continue on to more advanced techniques, and be a more savvy consumer when shopping for costume jewelry.”


If you’ve long since learned to crawl but have perhaps never learned the crawl, you might immerse yourself in one of the Beginner Swim Groups for adults at the 92nd Street Y. No experience is necessary for the class, which teaches “basic swimming skills and proper body alignment in a comfortable environment.” Think how serene you’ll feel slipping through the water with your sidestroke. Besides, if this whole rising-sea-level thing keeps on, it may prove an especially useful skill.

Flip out! Chelsea Piers now offers a bevy of gymnastic classes for adults that are perfect if you have long longed to learn multiple-twist somersaults and tumbling routines, or perhaps merely hope to spend some quality time on the trampoline. Or you might try the new class Gymtensity, which offers “total body strength conditioning the gymnastics way.” Only those already in good condition need apply.

Most new Yorkers have plenty of defenses—clipped speech, lack of eye contact, emotional unavailability—but few help in fending off attackers. At the Impact Basics Class for Teens and Adults (separate classes are available for both men and women) at Prepare Inc., an instructor in a padded suit will teach “physical skills, verbal strategies, and awareness and avoidance skills.”


Sometimes weeks go by when all you see are pigeons, but New York is actually home to over 400 species of birds, robins, cardinals, red-tail hawks, blue warblers, and monk parakeets among them. For an introduction to some of our avian neighbors, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden offers Birdwatching toursthrough many of the city’s parks during the spring migrations. The tours are BYOB—Bring Your Own Binoculars.

Many of us New Yorkers aspire to apartments with outdoor space, but in the meantime we might content our twiddling green thumbs with an all-day seminar at the New York Botanical Garden entitled Houseplant Extravaganza. Lectures and demonstrations include Orchids at Home, An Indoor Herb Garden, Aristocratic Aroids, and Cacti and Succulents.


Anyone can put a record on a turntable (provided they can find one), but not everyone can be a Paul Oakenfold, a Fatboy Slim, a Sasha & John Digweed. But if these are your aspirations, you might get into the mix with Dubspot’s Basic DJ Course. Students learn equipment setup and breakdown, basic music theory, and basic beat-mixing, and there’s an intro to mixing, sounds, and levels, along with an intro to scratching.

“I’ve got rhythm/I’ve got music/I’ve got my gal/Who could ask for anything more?” wonders George Gershwin. It’s a fair question, but what if you don’t have rhythm? Happily, Mannes College for Music offers a course in Rhythmic Support. We kid, of course. Rather, Rhythmic Support is just one course aspiring and continuing musicians can take along with studies in voice, piano, ear training, and music theory.


You mustn’t tease or feed the animals at the Bronx Zoo, but you are invited to shoot them if you register for the Wildlife Photography Course. Julie Maher, the Conservation Society staff photographer, is clearly for the birds. She will show students how best to photograph the zoo’s “toucans, bee eaters, and birds of paradise.” As you chase after your winged subjects, you’ll learn “how to capture the best shots through glass, how to avoid obstacles, and other tricks of the trade.”

If your pictures posted on Flickr or Snapfish aren’t winning the sort of plaudits you think they deserve and you suspect your photographic skills might be to blame, you might focus on Photo Manhattan’s Introduction to Photography course. Offered for both digital and film cameras, the course teaches “Camera Settings, Exposure Control, Photo-Composition, Depth of Field, Basic Lighting, Portraiture and Project Development.” It culminates in an exhibition of student work.