Class Action Listings – 10/27/2009


Theater and Performing Arts

Budding American idols ready to take their singing career to the big time—or, at least, beyond the bounds of the shower stall—can enroll in workshops at the Singers Forum in the Flatiron District. (You’ll be in excellent company: Liza Minnelli, Mandy Patinkin, and Eartha Kitt have all studied there.) Winter offerings include “Vocal Technique,” “Cabaret and Musical Performance,” and “Sing the Truth.”

Teaching improvisation by the book may sound like something of a contradiction in terms, but it doesn’t seem to trouble Magnet, a comedy theater and improv school in Chelsea with a strict multi-step curriculum. Students advance from “Level One: The Principles of Improv” to “Level Six: Team Performance Workshop.” The school also offers the occasional free introductory course, drop-in classes, and instruction in solo performance, sketch writing, and musical improv.

During the Depression, one dance instructor condemned swing as “a degenerated form of jazz, whose devotees are the unfortunate victims of economic instability.” In this time of economic instability, shedding some anxieties via the jitterbug sounds tremendously appealing. Dance Manhattan can set you twirling with instruction in “Smooth Swing,” “East Coast Swing,” and the pleasantly filthy-sounding “Collegiate Shag.”


Perhaps you have sewing skills that would make Heidi Klum weep, or a design aesthetic that might delight the heart of Michael Kors. But how do you transform these talents into a viable career? In late fall, The Fashion Institute of Technology offers several classes in Tools of the Trade for fashion design and Product Development Essentials. Courses include “Quality Fashion: How to Make It, How to Deliver It,” “Selling and Marketing Your Product Online,” and “The Inside Scoop From Pattern Makers, Graders, and Sample Makers.”

It’s a dog’s life—particularly when the dog lacks anything nice to wear. But couture-minded pet owners can remedy that sartorial defect with a class in “Dog Wear Design,” one of the offerings at Park Slope’s Brooklyn Design Lab. At the one-day workshop’s end, your pooch can sport his or her very own “unique appliquéd doggie shirt.”


The New York Public Library boasts an impressive 20 million books, but such a surplus isn’t terribly useful if you can’t read and write. Consequently, the NYPL hosts seven centers for reading and writing: two in the Bronx, four in Manhattan, and one on Staten Island. Each offers free small group instruction in reading and writing by trained volunteers and the opportunity for graduates to publish their work in the journal Writers’ Voices.

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart,” advised William Wordsworth. If your writing could use some CPR, you might consider studying at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop, which offers classes at 10 Manhattan locations as well as online. In addition to the usual round of creative writing instruction (fiction writing, screenwriting, memoir writing), Gotham has added new classes for the times, including “How to Blog” and “How to Freelance.”


You might think it would take longer than eight to 12 sessions to learn “a complete academic-atelier approach to the art of painting and drawing the figure, still life, portraiture, color and composition.” But the National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts on Museum Mile guarantees just that in its “Complete Academic Atelier Art Course.” Winter classes also include “Abstract Sculpture,” “Beginning Drawing,” “Printmaking,” “Watercolor,” and “Mixed Media.”

The Bauhaus School closed its doors in 1933, but present-day students longing to immerse themselves in New Objectivity and International Style need live in disappointment no longer. In conjunction with its Bauhaus exhibit opening in November, the Museum of Modern Art will offer a series of workshops celebrating Bauhaus artists and techniques. Offerings include “Abstract Reportage,” “Bauhaus Bags: Design Your Own Tote,” and “Josef Albers Color Workshop.”

For Children and Teens

Hanging out on stoops and filching cigarettes is a time-honored teen pastime, but teens more engaged with the carcinogenic properties of tobacco or the geological origins of the stoop might enjoy the after-school program at the American Museum of National History. The museum offers 25 courses, among them classes exploring anthropology, environmentalism, the solar system, cancer-causing viruses, and “DNA: Everything You Wanted to Know and More!”

What eight-year-old has assembled enough material for a gripping memoir? The teachers at Writopia apparently trust in kiddie chronicles, offering writing classes for children aged eight to 18. Six-member workshops instruct youth in the techniques of short stories, journalistic pieces, personal essays, poetry, dramatic and comedic scripts, and, yes, autobiographies. Workshop grads can read their work at a local Barnes & Noble, just like their more mature peers.


If you dream of winning an Oscar but suspect your talents tend toward the commercial rather than the creative, you need not toss away your “I’d like to thank” speech just yet. New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies film department offers just the course to get you started: “Producing Intensive.” Taught by two experienced producers, the class explicates such subjects as development, scheduling, budgeting, financing, and the state of the industry.

If you’re a self-styled cineaste, Columbia University’s School of General Studies, its program for returning and nontraditional students, offers several film courses taught by a remarkable faculty. Beginning in January, Andrew Sarris will lead a seminar in film noir, Philip Lopate offers “Writing Film Criticism,” and Richard Peña, director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, teaches “International Film History” and “Topics in World Cinema: The Arab World and Africa.”

Food and Drink

Thank you, Trader Joe’s, for recession-friendly three-buck chuck! But should the economic climate improve, would-be oenophiles may wish to expand their horizons. When that happy day arrives, Chelsea’s NYC Wine Class is ready. Their signature class is the one-night Wine 101, but they also offer boozy tutoring via “Regional Wine Explorations,” “Special Food & Wine Seminars,” and the hangover-inducing “16 Wines, 8 Cheeses, 1 Night.”

Though it doesn’t yet emanate the foodie aura of Berkeley, lots of things are growing in Brooklyn. If you’re interested in discovering how to turn neighborhood produce into dinner-table fare, you could enroll in a course at the Brooklyn Kitchen. Each month, the Kitchen drafts local restaurateurs and artisans to teach a tasty curriculum. Tom Mylan of Marlow & Sons is the butchery instructor; Bob McClure of McClure’s Pickles teaches pickling and canning; Ben Van Leeuwen is your ice cream professor.


Longtime Staten Island resident Jacques Marchais never visited the Himalayas, but that didn’t stop her from acquiring a noteworthy collection of Tibetan art and artifacts. So she constructed the Jacques Marchais Museum, resembling a Himalayan monastery. Even the Dalai Lama approved! Should you find relaxing by its fish and lotus ponds insufficiently tranquil, on Saturdays, the museum offers classes in meditation and Tai Chi.

Being able to sling one’s leg up around one’s ears seems sufficient inducement, but yoga can strengthen bone density, improve circulation, relax the mind, and help maintain a healthful body weight. Atmananda in Soho specializes in Vinyasa yoga and, for the budget-minded, offers a “pay-what-you-wish” community class nearly every weekday. The center also presents deep-tissue massage, Thai yoga massage, ear candling, astrology, and nutrition counseling.


The science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein once opined, “Don’t explain computers to laymen. Simpler to explain sex to a virgin.” But if you’re longing to know the facts of technological life, you’ll need to learn those ones and zeros somewhere. Berkeley College offers a number of introductory classes in computing among the many courses at its midtown campus: “Computer Applications” eases students into Windows and Word, while “Fundamentals of Information Technology” introduces students to basic concepts and terminology.

Perhaps you’re the sort of weekend warrior who spends Monday to Friday at your desk, but longs to spend Saturday and Sunday . . . back at your desk, improving your computer design skills. If so, the continuing education program at the School of Visual Arts can fulfill your raw, feral need. Their weekend workshops include instruction in such programs as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, and Dreamweaver


Chinese, like many Asian languages, has a reputation for being difficult to learn. But more than one billion people have mastered it, so why not you? The China Institute, the oldest school of its kind, has more than 75 years of practice in educating New Yorkers in written and spoken Chinese. Current courses at its Upper East Side site include introductory Cantonese; introductory, intermediate, and advanced Mandarin; and classes designed for heritage learners, fast-track learners, and those looking to improve reading or conversation skills. 

Nordic countries have much to recommend them—progressive social policies, cozy sweaters, and many varieties of herring. If you’ve developed a special curiosity regarding these proud, cold nations, you might consider instruction in their native tongues. The American Scandinavian Foundation, in collaboration with New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, offers instruction in Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish. Those seeking courses in Finnish or Icelandic can contact the Foundation directly.,


According to a legend told by the Tsimshian tribe of the Pacific Northwest, the porcupine’s quills render him the most feared of all beasts. Human animals can get their own back at the National Museum of the American Indian in Lower Manhattan this November, in a special hands-on workshop devoted to Porcupine Quillwork, a form of embroidery that makes use of quills donated from departed porcupines. Sioux artist D. Joyce Kitson leads the workshop.

Queens has much to recommend it—its diversity, its cuisine, and those nifty leftover structures from the World’s Fair. One doesn’t tend to visit that storied borough for its agriculture, but the Queens County Farm Museum in Floral Park consists of the city’s oldest continually farmed tract of land, and offers tuition in farm-appropriate activities. Those who seek comfort (or a comforter) against cold winter nights might consider their class in quilting instruction.


As a New Yorker, you’ve likely learned to take it on the chin, figuratively . . . so why not learn it literally? Church Street Boxing, “New York’s only fully equipped private boxing gym,” offers introductory boxing courses four times per week. Budding pugilists will work with the heavy bag, speed bag, jump ropes, and double-end bag. Now there’s a workout that packs a punch.

If your butterfly doesn’t flutter, or your crawl has slowed to a stop, you can refresh your swimming skills with classes at the Upper East Side fitness center Asphalt Green, a not-for-profit that dedicates itself to helping New Yorkers achieve better health through athletics. Swim courses are designed for both beginning and advanced students, and those bored with the backstroke or butterfly can take up instruction in lifeguard training, water pop, or scuba.


Staten Island’s Blue Heron Park and Nature Center boasts 222 rather damp acres with trails that weave in and out of wetland ponds, swamps, and streams and feature ample flora and fauna. But it also provides instruction in how to enjoy some of that nature in the privacy of your New York home. Fall workshops include instruction in building a bird feeder, crafting herbal holiday decorations, and that infrequent urban pastime, owl-spotting.

The New York Botanical Garden spreads itself over 250 acres in the Bronx, and boasts more than one million plants. Your green space—if you’re lucky enough to have one—is likely smaller, but the NYBG offers classes for a plot of any size. Featured winter courses include “Fundamentals of Gardening,” “Organic Gardening,” and “Herbs, Herb Gardens, and Herbalism.” If you lack outdoor space entirely, you might take “Creating an Indoor Garden.”


If your resolutions for the New Year include learning to snap better pictures, you might enroll in the International Center for Photography‘s January workshops, which cover topics such as “Photography I: Digital,” “Photography II: Digital,” “Adobe Lightroom for Beginners,” and “Digital Imaging.” Just imagine the marvelous photos you’ll take at next year’s New Year’s soiree.

A few years ago, Polaroid stopped producing cameras and film. With the rise of digital photography, who has a couple minutes to wait around for a picture to develop? And dropping off film at a one-hour photo kiosk—well, that takes forever! But even those with tremendously busy schedules may want to improve their pictorial skills. In November, the New School promises that it can teach you to make the most of your digital camera. The class is divided between shooting in the field and working with images on the computer.


Many a New York homeowner longs to engage in some remodeling work. (We have friends who can spend hours dreaming of ceiling medallions.) For our fellow fantasists, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum National Design Museum hosts a lecture-demonstration with Ingrid Abramovitch, author of the recent tome, Restoring a House in the City, who will present a slideshow of successful renovations and offer instruction on “renovating or decorating any older apartment or home.” New grouting, here we come!

New-York Historical Society, our city’s oldest museum and research library (and the possessor of a cool retro hyphen), usually concerns itself with Gotham’s past, but it has instituted a new series of lectures and discussion series concerning the city’s future. Upcoming talks feature “The Future of New York,” “America’s Future, America’s Constitution,” and “The Future of the USA.” Participants include Michael Goodwin, George Pataki, and Dr. Richard Haass.