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Theater & Performing Arts
Exactly how should one address Jo “Boobs” Weldon, headmistress of the New York School of Burlesque? Ms. Boobs? Professor Boobs? Dr. Boobs? Perhaps it might be safer to stick with a respectful “ma’am.” Each month, she and her bumping-and-grinding Lower East Side cohorts offer instruction in bombshell hair, Hula-Hooping, and pasty making. If you just can’t wait to shimmy and shake, consider “The Essential Burlesque Dance Series,” which promises training in “the dazzling tassel-twirl, chair dance, fan dance, and more!”

Chicken keeping is big in Brooklyn at the moment, as are beehives. Can it be much longer before pigs and goats roam the back gardens, and hipsters laze on their front porches, designer hayseeds in their teeth, indulging in a bit of banjo picking? If you want to prepare for that musical moment, enroll at Red Hook’s Jalopy Theatre, which offers eight-week courses in banjo, as well as fiddle, ukulele, mandolin, and regular old guitar.

That Ireland has had to apply to the European Union for emergency loans isn’t much to dance about. But don’t let that stop you! The Irish Arts Center in Hell’s Kitchen offers instruction in beginning step dance, intermediate step dance, set dances, and ceili dancing. (Perhaps they also offer instruction in how to pronounce that last one.) So why not down that glass of Jameson and jig your economic woes away?

Ever feel like you’ve dropped the thread? Like something’s needling you? Consider a course at The Sewing Studio in the Garment District. Even the most basic class will cover such topics as sewing-machine basics, seam finishes, pattern reading, and fabric cutting. At the end of the course, you’ll emerge with a drawstring bag, a zippered pouch, and a skirt of your own choosing.

Believe it or not, silk charmeuse has not always been with us. Time was when we all eschewed linen and taffeta for the comfort of animal skins. But if you’d like to improve on those caveman basics, consider “Leather Apparel Design” at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Though you won’t have to hunt and kill your next jacket, you will craft original designs in leather and suede.

On a dark, if not necessarily stormy, night, you can enter the portals of Hunter College for your first session of “Advanced Murder You’ll Write,” designed to “develop students’ skill in planting clues and building suspense.” If unexplained deaths aren’t your (body) bag, the spring session at the Writing Center also includes “How to Write the Story of Your Life,” with Erica Jong, and “Truth or Dare: Writing Personal Essays People Will Read,” taught by Times writer Daphne Merkin.

Maya Angelou wrote, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” The NY Writers Coalition believes in letting it out. As well as providing youth workshops, this Fort Greene–based organization devotes itself to free writing workshops for underserved populations, partnering with prisons, hospitals, homeless shelters, senior centers, and veterans groups. If your population is already well-served, they also offer for-pay classes that help support their charitable efforts.

Clay is awfully messy, metal is so stiff, and stone takes forever to chip away at. Wouldn’t sculpting be a lot more fun if not for all those pesky materials? The School of Visual Arts may have a solution, with sculpture courses that don’t get your hands dirty, including “The Fourth Dimension: Video, Space and the Broken Screen” and “Digital Sculpture.”

For Children & Teens
Staten Island enjoys a climate similar to that of the other boroughs, yet there’s a place there where you can drive a dogsled through the tundra, build an igloo, or explore the rain-forest canopy. The Staten Island Children’s Museum at Snug Harbor boasts all those environments, as well as a pirate ship and a fire truck. Most days, it also hosts classes for interested tots, including “Clay Day,” “Paint Day,” “Kidz Cook,” and “Theatre Kids,” which culminates in a special presentation.

One of Ogden Nash’s shortest poems reads: “The Bronx? No thonx.” But that borough is currently undergoing revitalization, some of it courtesy of the Bronx River Art Center in West Farms (near the Bronx Zoo). The center offers free art classes to neighborhood children and teens, as well as others for a small fee. Recent offerings include cartooning, sculpture, digital photography, and digital filmmaking.

Film & Video
“A film is never really good,” opined Orson Welles, “unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.” Frankly, that sounds rather painful. But even those unwilling to undergo such an implantation can learn the basics of filmmaking at the New York Film Academy’s evening workshops. Each 12-week session crams in 100 hours of class time. After preliminary instruction in writing, directing, cinematography, and editing, “students write, produce, direct, and edit two short film exercises.”

Food & Drink
If you’ve already worshipped at the altar of Eataly, Mario Batali’s cathedral to all things Italian and delicious, perhaps it’s time for some more advanced devotion. This winter and spring witnesses the debut of La Scuola di Eataly. In March, chef Lidia Bastianich will offer a series of master classes, revealing the secrets to such recipes as Spaghetti Pesto Anna, Steamed Swordfish Bagnara, and zucchini with anchovies and capers. Wine pairings should make for a lively tutorial.

In wine, there is truth—and quite a lot of smashed grapes. If you’d like to know a little more about the verity of this beverage, take a class at Vino, a friendly Italian wine store near Gramercy Park. Upcoming offerings include “Wine 101,” “French Wine in a Nutshell” (which seems like it wouldn’t hold very much wine at all), and “Classic Cocktails,” which ought to leave you shaken.

Health, Body & Wellness
Once upon a time, we in the West believed that being pricked with needles was a guarantor of pain, and not a source of its relief. But the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine aims to disabuse us of that notion. Its Flatiron District campus offers bachelor’s, master’s, and associate’s degrees in acupuncture, as well as programs in massage and herbology, all designed to “educate and inspire students to become compassionate, skilled providers of patient-centered health care using traditional East Asian and integrative medicine.”

Like the idea of healing work, but don’t want to get your hands dirty? Consider the New York College of Health Professions’ continuing-education courses in the Japanese practice of Reiki, in which one manipulates the body’s healing powers to spark “a powerful yet gentle non-invasive energy that eliminates stress and promotes a state of deep and total relaxation.” (I always thought that was called Xanax.) The college also offers instruction in traditional massage, physical arts, and holistic nursing.

If you think a GIF is something you receive for the holidays and a JPEG what you hang your hat upon, a brilliant career in Web design may not necessarily await you. But if you’re determined to learn the basics, then consider the free seminars offered by Noble Desktop in Soho: “How to Get Started in Web Design” and “Roadmap to a Career in Web or Print Design.” With a comprehensive explanation of industry terms and conditions, you should be HTMLing and Dreamweaving in no time.

Weren’t those WikiLeaked diplomatic cables terrible? Just think of how many world leaders were being insulted behind their backs. Kim Jong-Il is fat! Silvio Berlusconi is sleazy! Muammar Qaddafi uses Botox! If you’d like to say that to Qaddafi’s strangely immobile face, why not enroll in an Arabic language course, like the ones that start at Cactus Language Courses in Midtown on January 18? If you’d prefer to taunt different world leaders, Cactus also offers Korean, Italian, and eight other popular tongues.

Back in the day, you couldn’t swing a schnitzel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side without hitting a native German speaker. But as sausage shops and coffeehouses and bakeries (oh, where are the baumkuchen of yesteryear?) have been replaced by frat bars, the number of Deutsche has dwindled. However, the German Language Learning Club in Yorkville offers language classes for children and adults interested in helping to preserve some of the neighborhood’s Teutonic heritage.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but beads are a very companionable alternative. The Midtown store Metalliferous stocks baubles, chains, and materials of all sorts. In addition, they offer several courses a year designed to inaugurate students into the pleasures of bracelet- and necklace-making. Or maybe they’re just stringing you along.

UrbanGlass, a downtown Brooklyn atelier, devotes itself to supporting “aspiring and established artists wishing to create with glass.” To that end, it sponsors weekly classes as well as intensive workshops in all manner of glass techniques. Spring courses include “Blowing Glass,” “Glass Synthesis,” “Neon Weekend,” “Stained Glass Weekend,” and “Flame.”

Know the latest sensation in Las Vegas? Synchronized swimming. Apparently at least 30 professional swimmers drip all over the Strip in various entertainments. If you’ve always dreamed of the damp and spangled life, Dolphin Swimming now offers beginning and intermediate synchronized swimming courses at its Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn locations. Adults and children eight and older learn to crawl, butterfly, and backstroke in unison. Basic swimming knowledge and comfort underwater required. Showgirl costumes not included.

Which martial art is the mightiest? Karate, kung fu, jujutsu, aikido, boxing? (Tai chi chuan, it ain’t.) They all have their strengths, but let’s give the nod to capoeira. What’s cooler than a fighting form you can dance to? Created by African slaves in 16th-century Brazil, it melds hitting and kicking with music and dance, providing an intensely melodic workout. Midtown’s Arte Capoeira Center offers daily group classes, as well as private lessons. It also sponsors a performance troupe.

Taking a horticulture class in the middle of winter might seem somewhat counterintuitive, as gardens are dappled with frost or covered in snow. But the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx offers a bevy of courses well-suited to the colder months. Students can enroll in such offerings as “Greenhouse Management,” “Winter Tree Identification,” “Pruning Principles and Practices,” and “Ornamental Woody Plants: Conifers.” Even as the mercury falls, the NYBG’s commitment to botanical instruction remains evergreen.

Helmut Newton once declared, “My job as a portrait photographer is to seduce, amuse, and entertain.” That all sounds delightful, but doubtless taking the picture also factors in somewhere. If you’d like to learn this skill, The Educational Alliance on East Broadway offers a six-session class designed to answer questions like “What makes a portrait interesting?” and “How can you make your portraits portray more than just the physical presence of a person?”

The penguins, red pandas, and California sea lions are ready for their close-ups. This January, in the wee hours before the Central Park Zoo opens, eager shutterbugs can enter for a wildlife photography class taught by the zoo’s resident snapper, Judith Wolfe. After coffee and scones, students will learn knowledge of animal behavior that can facilitate the best critter photos. Just don’t tell the polar bears to make love to the camera.

If you’re the sort who’s always leaping up in restaurants to administer the Heimlich maneuver or rushing along the sand to give CPR to imperiled swimmers, you just might consider transforming that hobby into a profession. The John Jay College of Criminal Justice offers spring courses for students eager to number among New York’s bravest, finest, boldest, etc. In addition to preparing future emergency medical technicians for work in fire departments, ambulances, and hospitals, the course work also includes 16 hours of clinical training.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 5, 2011

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