The staccato beat of conga drums rises over the deep voice of a bass guitar and the higher trills of the timbales and piano. Head dancer Evan Margolin and his bevy of experienced instructors lead students in classes that take beginners through basic footwork and salsa rhythms, with intermediate and advanced sessions offering salsa aficionados more challenging instruction. The social class structure—partners rotate throughout every session—creates a low-pressure learning environment and keeps dancers from scrambling to locate a partner or human-shaped tupperware container. The one-hour beginner classes are mostly filled with salsa novices and new dancers, and Dance SF's experienced and engaging local salsateers are patient and friendly when showing new students how to bust well-timed moves. During intermediate classes, which require six months or more of social dancing experience, students focus on timing and cross-body leads with turns. After some evening classes, new dancers are invited to join an all-night salsa party where they can put their new moves in practice. Students should wear comfortable clothing, which includes dancing shoes, but does not include rear-flapped onesie pajamas.
Jill Dailey McIntosh has always been intrigued by the human body and how it moves—so much so that she graduated in 1991 with a kinesiology degree and soon thereafter decided to open her own Pilates teaching studio. But it wasn't until years later that this curiosity would manifest itself in a single question: "How can one aggressively transform the shape of their body while still maintaining proper alignment of the spine?" Eventually Jill began to examine her diverse fitness background, pulling low-impact movements from ballet, Pilates, and even orthopedic-exercise routines to create the basis for her fitness style, The Dailey Method.
Now, more than a decade later, Dailey's fitness routine has ballooned into studios sprawled across more than 10 states and gained praise from Self, Allure, FitPregnancy, and InStyle magazines. Regardless of the location, instructors remain true to Jill's mission of offering a diverse series of exercises that focus on toning and lengthening the body while lengthening the spine and building strong core muscles.
Tony Carr was something of a renaissance man, simultaneously holding degrees from UCLA and UC Irvine, working on a vaccine for Alzheimer's, and preparing for a sailboat race to Hawaii. His regatta ambitions, however, were unjustly cut short by a debilitating lower-spine injury. Despite this twist of fate, Tony persisted, and took up Bikram yoga at the Bikram Yoga College of India as just the latest endeavor of a man with diverse ambitions. Within one month, his symptoms had been alleviated, and within four months they had almost vanished completely.
Tony had found his new passion, and he immersed himself in it with enough enthusiasm to lose 30 pounds—the average British child's entire net worth—and transform his body in the process. He traveled to India and studied personally with Bikram Choudhury, the father of Bikram yoga. Tony became certified to teach in 1998. Now he leads classes at Bikram Yoga College of India, where he guides students through the 26 postures in the hopes that they, too, can transform their lives.
Monkey Yoga Shala's attentive instructors help students hone energy, balance, and strength with individualized instruction in a variety of specialized yoga classes. The studio's signature Isometric Monkey yoga melds aspects of dance, martial arts, and Ashtanga yoga to create an exhilarating low-impact workout. Additionally, resistance stretches lengthen limbs as instructors personally assist students in finding their most comfortable pose. In Vinyasa classes, aspiring yogis harness deliberate breathing to flow through asanas and backbends with the grace of a swan performing downward-facing dog. New mothers gather for 90-minute Mom & Baby sessions, toting tots through a series of mind-body exercises designed to increase energy and facilitate more focused baby-bottle juggling. Monkey Yoga's flexible roster of early-morning and late-night classes beckons participants to the spacious studio, which glows with natural light and hardwood floors polished well enough to reflect the radiance emanating from students’ auras.
The detail-oriented instructors at Art a la Cart take students through each painting step-by-step, showing them how to mix and blend their own colors and build compositions from the background without having to first live among paintings in local art museums. They supervise students in a themed class series as they paint still-life fruit and candies, portray whimsical landscapes, depict parts of the San Francisco skyline, or emulate the style of a classic artist. Groups explore each subject and question its lack of Renaissance cupids in one of five locations, which include wine-cellar tasting rooms, underground wine bars, and a modern minimalist cocktail lounge. Staff members supply all acrylic paints, brushes, and other gear for each class; and though they don't provide any libations, instructors encourage participants to bring or purchase their own drinks.
Each of the guitar coaches at American Guitar Academy are certified in the school's signature teaching method. Developed over 25 years, this house-honed instruction technique incorporates scientific research to help fingers learn to shred frets up to eight times faster than alternative methods. During private half-hour lessons, instructors guide budding rock stars aged 4 years and up through the basics of strumming chords and seamlessly stitching together riffs. These comprehensive lessons on classical, electric, or acoustic guitars are offered once a week with a live instructor or online and guarantee that students will be playing their favorite music within six months of training. Students may begin lessons without owning a guitar, but are encouraged to gain access to one quickly for mastering scales and the ability to solo with their teeth.