Alisa Bowens can teach the newest of newbies how to salsa—just watch her episode of MTV’s Made for proof. On it, she taught teenage sisters with no dance experience how to salsa, and she does the same for students at her studio, Alisa’s House of Salsa. She teaches the spicy Latin dance to groups, as well as in private lessons, during which she is able to provide even more technique notes and feedback. She also hosts salsa nights at local restaurants and lounges so that her students can practice in a real-life environment.
Colorful knobs and grips jut out from City Climb's angular white walls, guiding climbers of all experience levels along routes designed by USAC-certified setters. These vertical treks are made safe by ropes, which are looped into climbers' harnesses and held below by belayers. No harness is necessary to clamber along the curves of a bouldering cave, however—or while army crawling the entire length of the floor. Students can bring their own equipment or rent climbing shoes, harnesses, and chalk bags at the gym.
The expert climbing instructors at CT Rock Gym guide cliff-scalers through the ins and outs of rock climbing and belaying during a 90-minute On Belay! class. Teachers introduce students to climbing equipment, movements and techniques, and the basics of belaying, which involves clambering up overhangs while tethered via rope to a partner. Two automatic belay machines help solo climbers achieve the heights of dynamic duos, and the staff ensures safety by checking each person prior to their belaying foray and leading everyone through typhoon disaster drills. A two-week membership allows patrons to develop their climbing prowess by exploring a bouldering area, which includes a cave, and shimmying up artfully designed rope paths that rotate every 2.5 months—the time it takes to hatch a rhinoceros.
Atop the blue padded floors of Master Hwang's Martial Arts, adults and kids as young as four years old learn to focus their energies to execute challenging maneuvers. Leading the pack, expert instructors impart the secrets of judo, Hapkido, and tae kwon do disciplines to boost focus and tone fly-swatting muscles. The karate haven also hosts summer camps and birthday parties that strengthen juvenile bonds.
The consortium of professional instructors at Fred Astaire Dance Studio, which was cofounded by the legendary dancer himself, shepherds students of all ages and skill levels through lessons that span the style spectrum. Low-pressure private sessions allow enthusiastic teachers to fine-tune individual students' techniques and form using their expert eyes. Patrons can learn how to cavort through classic waltz and fox-trot romps or swivel through the modern steps of salsa, swing, or samba. For dancers hoping to hoof it up in a social setting, the group practice parties provide a one-night extravaganza of instruction, demonstrations, and amateur firewalking.
Military personnel, police officers and detectives have something in common besides high-risk jobs: Dennis Hill. The chief instructor at Aiki Academy of Self Defense, armed with a black belt in judo and a brown belt in Brazilian jujitsu, has trained members of all three professions in the art of hand-to-hand combat. He also teaches civilians at his 4,000-square-foot dojo, voted New Haven’s best martial-arts studio in 2012 by CT.com readers.
Hill and his team helm more than 50 classes per week. Sessions traffic in styles that range from kickboxing-focused combat hapkido and muay thai to krav maga, a fighting style that readies people for no-rules brawls, such as street fights or bare-knuckle-boxing matches held on cruise ships once maritime law kicks in. Fitness classes from kettlebell workouts to flexibility-enhancing yoga complement the self-defense courses, as do amenities such as an onsite playroom and free coffee in the spacious waiting room.
In 1976, educator, musician, and kinesiologist Robin Wes longed for a children's gym that prioritized personal growth over competition. Unveiled at a time when physical-education classes pushed students to focus almost exclusively on winning, Robin's program was swiftly adopted and is now used in more than 300 Little Gyms worldwide. Robin still pens original music to accompany lessons, which engage whippersnappers aged 4 months to 12 years with gymnastics, dance, karate, and parent and child activities.
Each of The Little Gym's classes introduces simple movements that sharpen motor skills and set brains whirring, allowing kids to progress at their own pace until they can finally build a computer out of macaroni and glitter. Staff members strive to build a base for lifelong social skills and self-assurance with each exercise, including activities rooted purely in fun, such as summer camps or birthday parties, which helped The Little Gym to earn title of #1 Birthday Chain in [Parents Magazine].