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“An Introduction to Shibari: Rope Bondage” with Valentine Amartey at Shag BrooklynAdd shibari, the art of rope bondage, to the list of awesome things that originated in Japan. Couples and singles of any orientation are welcome at this class; participants should bring 100 feet of rope (two ten-foot lengths, two 15-foot lengths and two 25-foot lengths), safety shears and an open mind. You’ll learn the basics, including aesthetic principles and safety guidelines, and how to tie three knots. Hand-dyed rope is available for purchase ($55 per set) before class. 108 Roebling St at North 6th St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-721-3302, $75, couples $130.  
BYOB painting workshop at the Painting LoungeRub elbows with other budding Picassos at this booze-fueled art lesson, where you’ll re-create a masterpiece. Each session focuses on a famous work by Van Gogh, Monet or another legend. Teachers go through the brushwork step-by-step, so no need to stress if you’re not Da Vinci. Participants are encouraged to bring their own beverage to get creative juices—and conversation—flowing. 438 Union Ave between Metropolitan Ave and Devoe St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn ( $50–$65.
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Photograph: Carla CoriaBrewshop 101 at Bitter & EstersLearn to make your own craft beer at this two-hour workshop. Instructors will teach you about malt, hops, yeast and styles, then you can chat with classmates and sample a few pints for inspiration before starting on your own creation. The intro course is a one-session deal, so make the most of the preclass socializing time. 700 Washington Ave between Prospect Pl and St. Marks Ave (917-596-7261, $55.
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Photograph: Nadia ItaniIntro classes at Fluent CityThis company offers electives in ten languages (including French, Spanish and Arabic), and the 15-person class size ensures everyone gets personal attention. There’s significant focus on partner work, and Fluent City also organizes events outside of class and occasional trips abroad. 143 Skillman Ave between Graham and Manhattan Aves, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-687-6896, Manhattan locations and schedules vary; $315–$355.
Improv 101 at the UCB Training CenterFind your new sounding board with UCB’s introductory improvisation course. The three-hour, eight-week classes are capped at 16 students, breaking the ice with a slew of get-to-know-you exercises. Once you’re past the name game, you’ll jump into building comedic scenes on the spot, culminating in a one-hour graduation performance. If you’re too Method to chat people up in session, you can meet friends in smaller practice groups outside class or invite a buddy to check out one of UCB’s cheap, hilarious nightly shows. 145 W 30th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves (212-366-9176, One eight-week session $400.
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Photograph: Vincent OnoratiMusic Writing Book Group at WORD bookstoreMore of a curated book club than a straightforward seminar, this monthly gathering is great for meeting scholars of music and the written word. Leaders Tobias Carroll and Daphne Carr are experienced music writers and editors: Carr edits the Best Music Writing series and Carroll is the managing editor of Vol. 1 Brooklyn. They head discussions about all manner of tomes; recent selections include Margo Jefferson’s On Michael Jackson and Throbbing Gristle’s Twenty Jazz Funk Greats by Drew Daniel. Free to attend, the group’s small size (five to 12 members a month) makes it easy to connect with other audiophiles over topics like the history of disco. 126 Franklin St at Milton St, Greenpoint, Brooklyn (718-383-0096, Meets the second Saturday of every month, 3pm; free.
“How to Eat: A Crash Course in Food Education” at Home Cooking New YorkThe myriad options at the supermarket—whole wheat versus multigrain, agave versus date syrup, organic versus semi-organic—make today’s food world a confusing place to shop. Learn the ten things you need to know to sort through all the information out there and become a savvy consumer and cook. You’ll get a primer on how to shop for produce and meat, the difference between good fats and bad fats, how to understand food labels, why eating locally is a good idea and much more. 236 W 26th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves, suite 601 (917-803-6857, Next class Jan 8 7–9pm; $75.  
 (Photograph: Natural Gourmet Institute)8/10
Photograph: Natural Gourmet Institute“New Year, New You: Which Foods Do What?” at Haven’s KitchenChef Julia Sullivan and Body Space Fitness coach Kado Simmons teach this seminar for health-conscious food lovers. In the two-hour-long session, you’ll get insight into the best ways to fill your body with the nutrients you need to stay focused and energized throughout the day. You’ll also get schooled on meal planning, tracking your food intake and and goal-setting. 109 W 17th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves (212-929-7900, Next class Jan 21 7–9pm; $100.  
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Photograph: Kyle FromanHouse Dance at the Alvin Ailey ExtensionEddie Stockton’s class starts with hopping in place and stretching before transitioning into choreographed sequences. One pattern might feature jumps interspersed with quick twists and low-spinning sweep kicks, followed by side-to-side leaps paired with snaking footwork. Part of the fun is that the Brooklyn-born teacher blasts his own DJ mixes and circulates through the room to help students master each attitude-enhanced move before adding another. If you still get tripped up, don’t stress: Stockton supplies encouragement, reminding students that it’s okay to add their own flavor to the prescribed routine. 405 W 55th St at Ninth Ave (212-405-9500, Thu 8–9:30pm; single class $16.50, first two classes $25.
 (Photograph: Virginia Rollison)10/10
Photograph: Virginia RollisonIntroductory class at the New York Capoeira CenterPerhaps you’ve played as Eddie in Tekken 3, or maybe you remember the Durmstrang wizards’ entrance from the fourth Harry Potter movie. Either way, you’ve seen capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that incorporates elements of dance (especially breaking) and is performed to a rhythmic soundtrack. Beginners’ classes at this school focus on moving safely in tandem with a partner and practicing three fundamental skills, including cartwheels. Despite being labeled “introductory,” the class is mixed-ability, so attendees practice at the level they’re comfortable with—most stick with crouched half-cartwheels. The instructors create a jovial, supportive atmosphere where it’s okay to make mistakes. That’s a good thing: Capoeira demands balance and some serious core and upper-body strength. Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center, 107 Suffolk St between Delancey and Rivington Sts, suite 307 (212-677-2209, Schedule varies; monthly membership $130–$165, registration fee $100.

Self-improvement guide 2013: Ten classes to try

Learning new skills is key to self-improvement. Find out which classes to try in 2013, to delve into an interest or discover a new hobby.


Just because you’re not in school doesn’t mean you shouldn’t always be learning something, especially if your 2013 goal is self-improvement. We’ve got a handful of classes to try, whether you want to brush up on your vegan-cooking skills or hone your stand-up comedy chops. You’ll be crafting homemade beer or speaking a new language in no time.

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