Amid the illuminated signs, speedo-clad cowboys, and web-slinging superheroes of Times Square, it can become difficult to stand out. Ral’eau Salsa Dance Company, one of the neighborhood’s many businesses, has just the solution—teaching students to express themselves through a variety of energetic, sensual dances that originated in Latin America and calorie-torching Zumba classes. Teachers demonstrate the steps of New York- and LA-style salsa with patience and positivity, using easy-to-follow cues to help students master each swivel, spin, and air-guitar solo. They also teach other styles of movement, including tango, hip-hop, and swing, which students can take to the streets during field trips to dance clubs and cruise ships.
In addition to hosting signature Salsa classes, Ral’eau Salsa Dance Company opens its spacious, climate-controlled studios to those who want to tone muscles and burn fat through Zumba classes. Fostering a community of 1,000-plus members, the company hosts more than 300 classes per month across various disciplines while maintaining intimate class sizes. With five levels of progressive advancement, students will meet new people, improve dancing techniques, boost self-esteem, and stay fit while swiveling their moves in a lively environment. To accompany a wide array of fitness classes including pilates, yoga, and mixed martial arts, instructors lead private dance lessons to help couples gear up for weddings, proms, or three-legged races on the set of Soul Train.
Zack’s Dance Loft’s founder draws inspiration from the Latin and ballroom dance styles popular in the Big Apple. Back when he worked as a financial analyst at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Zack began teaching Latin dance at the company. Now that he’s founded his own business replete with a spacious studio sporting oversize mirrors on the walls and a floating dance hardwood floor, Zack and his staff train clientele in salsa, wedding dance, pole dance, and more.
Happy hour classes begin with an open bar and provide an hour of dance instruction in salsa, swing, tango, or other styles. The sessions conclude with socializing and drinks, much like ballet recitals or successful heart surgeries. Throughout each workshop, Zack cultivates a casual atmosphere. In 2006, he told New York magazine he often makes friends with his students, and the magazine went on to declare that his “private lessons are as technically sound as anyone’s—and way looser and more fun.”
Instructors lead muay thai, jujitsu, boxing, and wrestling classes, during which they challenge students in old-school and modern workouts, where a right jab to the jaw sends a mist of perspiration across the blue boxing ring before Joe Louis's eyes. His looming visage peers down at sparring athletes from the walls covered in old flyers, magazine cutouts, and posters recalling the sport's storied history at Church Street Boxing Gym. Legends including Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis have trained here, but the staff, which boasts experience in more than 300 combined fights, guides men, women, and children of all skill levels in the combat arts.
The children's martial arts program, run by Pouncing Tigers, teaches respect and discipline with a focus on fun. On the wrestling mat, they demonstrate gripping an opponent in a headlock, and those training for boxing or muay thai skip rope and pummel heavy bags until they agree to stop throwing fights. Athletes can attend classes to prepare for serious combat competition or to get in shape with exercises designed to sculpt the whole body.
With more than three dozen instructors leading more than 100 classes each week, New York Yoga requires more than a little elbow room. And so the business splits its classic-yoga and hot-yoga classes into separate studios, ensuring its throngs of beginner and advanced students have enough room to really stretch out. The separation also allows the 85th and Lexington location to keep itself programmed to 105 degrees at all times, helping students boost their stamina and discouraging abominable snowmen from loitering around the exits. Restorative classes forgo strenuous physical exertion in favor of a slow, calming practice performed at a comfortable temperature and enhanced with props, whereas a slew of one-time workshops introduce yogis to specialized forms of practice, such as prenatal yoga or introductory sessions for first-timers.
As noted in its Zagat rating, Wine bar's intimate table arrangements "make it easy to make new friends." Indeed, from their perch at the long, flower-adorned tables, gathered groups pass around assorted pan-European small plates as new acquaintances clink glasses of sophisticated vino culled from the impressive collection dominating the wall space. Soft lighting glints off this East Village café's crimson accents, reflecting off the tables' glossy wood and illuminating sharable French cheese plates, Italian flatbreads drizzled with truffle oil, and exotic gelato flavors. Winebar's more than 100 varietals hail mainly from Italy, France, and Spain, sparking conversations of worldly travels, semesters abroad, and fruitless pursuits of Carmen Sandiego as guests sip by candlelight or quaff al fresco on the seasonal sidewalk patio.
Residing comfortably on the ground floor of the Doubletree NYC Financial District, Ei8htstone ensconces diners in its modern, minimalist decor as it kindles appetites into a roaring hunger with the scent of internationally inspired cuisine wafting from the kitchen. Gourmet plates of pork, chicken, and tuna take on exotic influences, resulting in Bengali-style chicken salad, Canadian-style blue-cheese burgers, and a French-inspired baguette sandwich with gruyere cheese. Classic American dishes hold their own with waffles and mac 'n' cheese. All of the menu items pair well with a selection of internationally sourced wines and local American beers, which bartenders sling from the sleek marble bar. Across from it, a sweeping, plush bench allows diners to get cozy as they sip their drinks or thumb-wrestle for final bites of dinner.
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