29 Ways to Better Yourself This Fall in NYC



Theater and Performing Arts

What would dance be without its costumes? Those tutus, those sequins, the occasional jazzy bowler hat. Still, clothes aren’t much without some accompanying footwork, so the Fashion Institute of Technology will offer a variety of dance classes in the fall. Courses include “Contemporary Urban Dance,” “Dances of the Middle East and India,” “Afro-Caribbean Dance,” ballet, modern, jazz, and flamenco.

Sure, there are advantages to being a solo artist. Full creative control, first pick of backstage snacks, not having to share groupies. But a musician can get lonely. If you’d like to learn to play well with others, Mannes School of Music, an affiliate of the New School, offers a variety of ensemble programs. You can register for “Community Orchestra,” “Baroque Chamber Ensemble,” “Guitar Ensemble,” “Flute Ensemble,” and for Renaissance Faire enthusiasts, “Recorder Consort.”



Shopping your closet would be a lot easier if your closet had a lot more new stuff in it. But Bird River Studios in Williamsburg has a compromise. In the sewing workshop “Jean Re-Fab Bag,” you’ll learn how to turn your worn-out jeans into a brand-new purse. And in “T-Shirt Re-Fab,” you can learn no-sew techniques to transform old tops into wardrobe statement pieces.

If the shoe fits, wear it. Designing and building a shoe based on the shape of your particular foot might really help with that whole fit thing. At the Brooklyn Shoe Space in Williamsburg, you can learn how to create your own footwear. Begin with an introductory session covering “footwear structure, resources for materials, and measuring your feet.” Then move on to pattern making and working sessions.



If you browse a bookstore’s classics section, you’ll find a preponderance of books by dead white rich men. And those books are pretty great, but the NY Writers Coalition has dedicated itself to making sure a greater variety of voices is heard. The coalition partners with social-service agencies to arrange workshops for veterans, geriatrics, the recently incarcerated, and those with physical and mental disabilities. For the general public, it also sponsors a free weekly workshop at the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library each Monday afternoon.

What’s the use of having written the next great American novel if no one can read it? “The Next Bestseller Workshop” promises to help you make your opus just a bit more magnum. At this weekend seminar in Soho from November 7 to 9, you’ll learn to “practice and polish your pitch with direct access to book publishing industry professionals, Hollywood, and the media.”


If you have a nagging desire to sculpt, consider learning at Chateau Stables, a stable for theatrical animals in Hell’s Kitchen. This class will cover sculpting basics: building an armature, building sculptural muscle mass, creating fine details. And it will provide extra inspiration of the four-legged variety by providing several horses to serve as live models. Who’d say neigh to that?

Has all the color drained from your relationship? You can try revivifying it during “1-Nite Couples Painting Class Party” at the Art Studio NY on the Upper West Side. Here you’ll receive instruction in “color mixing, brushwork, composition, texture” and leave with a canvas you create together. If it goes poorly, you can console yourself with the free wine. And if not even wine can improve things, you might be ready for Art Studio NY’s “BYOB Singles Night Painting Class Party.”

For Children and Teens

Does it seem as if your kid is always a move or two ahead of you? If you think your tot (aged four and up) might make a grandmaster or -mistress, you can sign him or her up for lessons at Chess NYC in the West Village. Opt for individual chess club lessons or group chess buddy tutoring. But don’t blame the school if you become just a pawn in your spawn’s game.

New York City used to boast a dazzlingly rich aquaculture, its bays teeming with striped bass, cod, oysters, and clams. Actually, New York still has plenty of fish, though you might want to exercise some caution before consuming them. You can decide once you and your child learn to catch them, with free lessons via Big City Fishing, which run through August at a variety of piers. Big City provides “rods, reels and bait, as well as formal instruction.”


If only a film actually ended once you yelled “Cut!” on the final scene. But how to sort through all those different takes, sync that dialogue, fade in those songs? And where should you place all those CGI fire-breathing dragons? A six-week course in “The Art of Film Editing” at the Edit Center in DUMBO can help. Students will learn Final Cut Pro and Avid Media Composer while working on a full-length narrative film or feature documentary.


Food and Drink

This is a golden age of ice cream. Gelato, too. Also sorbet. Even much-maligned frozen yogurt. If you’d like to learn to make your own quiescently frozen confections, it might help to study with an expert. At the new Ample Hills in Gowanus, Brooklyn — the venture that developed the worryingly addictive Salted Crack Caramel — you’ll learn “how to transform a few natural ingredients and a dream into a cold, creamy treat.”

Let’s all take a moment to thank that long-ago ancestor who first thought to roast his or her mammoth steak over an open flame. But grilling has come a long way since prehistoric times. Bring yourself up to speed at the Institute of Culinary Education in the Flatiron. You can start with “All About Grilling,” then move on to “Grilling and Roasting the Chinese Way” and “Grilling Seafood Seven Ways.”

Even in the midst of summer’s swelter, New York City can feel very far from the tropics. But you can bring the islands (not Staten, Randall’s, or Ellis) just a little closer with “Tiki Time” at the Astor Center in the East Village. In this two-hour seminar on August 20, you’ll learn “the history, the décor, and, of course, the cocktails that launched the 1950s Tiki bar craze,” and get hands-on experience in zombie and mai tai mixology. Baby, we were born to rum.


What would you like for lunch? A salad, a sandwich, a stiff drink, a sleeve of breath mints, or maybe just some serenity? If you’d rather feed your spirit than your stomach, the Giving Tree Yoga Studio in Astoria offers the Vinyasa class “Lunchtime Bliss,” while also presenting “Noon Awakening,” which incorporates “pranayama, meditation and unique sequencing.”

Maybe you’d like to discover better health by optimizing your energy meridians. Or maybe you’ve always felt a certain envy watching the human pincushion at Coney Island. Either way, you’ll enjoy “Community Acupuncture” at the Maha Rose Center for Healing in Greenpoint. In this massage class, you’ll learn the “basics and benefits of acupuncture.”


Do you believe in love at first site? Maybe you will once you’ve taken “Web Development 1: Building Websites” at the Noble Desktop in Soho. You’ll begin by learning basic HTML and CSS, then put that coding into practice, exploring various layouts, links, structures, and designs, until you’re ready to upload your masterpiece to the web.

How many millions of us wanted to reach into our computer screens just to bring harm to Clippy, Microsoft’s unfailingly jaunty office assistant? If you need help with word processing, there are better ways, such as classes in Microsoft Word at the Career Center in Murray Hill. Choose from eight levels of instruction — everything from creating a document to spellchecking your final draft.


Charlemagne said that to have a second language was to possess a second soul. But what if you’re interested in a third, fourth, fifth, and sixth soul? If you’ve been looking for a place to learn some more exotic tongues (and a couple of dead ones), consider the continuing-education courses at Columbia University. Offerings include everything from Armenian to Zulu, with Pulaar, Sanskrit, Telugu, Tibetan, Uzbek, and Wolof in between.


Some of us still have warm feelings for the Barbies of our youth. But it’s a rare adult who feels any nostalgia for Ken. If you think you can improve on his worryingly smooth plastic frame, consider the August 24 doll workshop at Chelsea’s City Quilter, where you’ll make “a male doll to dress as you wish.” Tiny sequin tuxedoes and toreador outfits not included.

Paper cutting! It’s not just for snowflakes and those weird Thanksgiving turkeys you make by tracing around your hand anymore. At “Papercutting Explorations” at the Center for Book Arts in the Flatiron, you’ll learn how to produce “silhouettes, colorful collages, basic pop-ups, and paper sculptures, as well as multiple prints.” It’s probably best not to try out your new skills on the center’s tomes.


It’ll be another four years before the U.S. can lose another World Cup. But why not at least dominate your pickup game in the meantime? At Soccer Beyond — hey, it’s up to the rest of the Earth to call it football — you can take coed lessons emphasizing skills such as passing, dribbling, ball control, attacking, and defending. At Pier 25 in Tribeca, Soccer Beyond also offers boot camps, scrimmages, and one-on-one coaching.

When Henry Hudson first navigated our waterways, did he ever suspect that some 400 years in the future the river to which he gave his name would host “Beachfit Bootcamp”? Manhattan Kayak Company offers an amphibious twist on the typical exercise class, with cross-training both on land at Pier 84 in Hell’s Kitchen and in the water, using a paddleboard.



They’re in your food, your tea, your soap, your medicine. Good god, herbs are everywhere! If you’d like to learn more about them, consider the two-session course “Herbs: Historical Significance and Contemporary Use,” beginning August 29 at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. If you’re up for more after pondering the “physical properties of herbs and their roles within traditional cultures,” you can follow up in September with “Nature’s Pharmacy.”

New York is home to nine species of bats, none of them vampiric. (Though a few are rabid.) Some may fear them, but these are fascinating creatures, even the smallest of which can devour hundreds of insects each night. For those who’d like to better appreciate them (and their prey), NYC Audubon hosts “Twilight Bat and Insect Walks” in Central Park, designed to educate strollers about bats and their importance in the urban environment. Bring a flashlight and bug spray.


Legendary photojournalist Robert Capa quipped that if your photos weren’t good enough, you weren’t close enough. Actually, there are a host of other reasons your photos don’t dazzle, flaws you can remedy with “Photojournalism and Documentary” at PhotoManhattan in Union Square. Classes include a study of the work of famous photojournalists, as well as weekly assignments and group critiques.

Digital photography is cheap, easy, and practical. But these aren’t necessarily selling points. If you long for something just a bit less evanescent, enroll in the “Analog Film Lab,” a one-day intensive course on August 29 at BKC Brooklyn Central in Bushwick. After learning how to load film into the camera, you’ll master focus and the light meter before heading out to shoot. Then you’ll learn how to develop your film and print your pictures. Assuming all goes well, you’ll leave with a set of 8-by-10 glossies.


Henna has been used for cosmetic purposes for 6,000 years. So you might feel just a little guilty not yet having learned how to use it. In the two-hour henna workshop at Henna by Kenzi in Bed-Stuy, you’ll learn how to prepare and apply henna paste, plus the all-important aspects of henna aftercare. Or, if you prefer your cosmetics less natural, try “Airbrush Makeup and Sunless Tanning Workshop” at CHIC Studios NYC.