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.
Owner Jeff Cohn of JC Cellars has always been interested in the world of wine, but it wasn't until he tasted a Chateauneuf-du-Pape that the cosmos unfurled before him. "To go from tasting only single varietals to a blend really opened my eyes," he wrote in his bio. He started crafting his own wines and tinkering with production methods, experimenting with different yeast strains. Cohn eventually produced the 2003 Rhodes Vineyard Zinfandel, which was named number three on Wine Spectator's Top 100 List—the first time a California Zinfandel had even been in the top 10.
Now, Cohn curates a roster of 21 vintages based on Rhone grape varietals at JC Cellars. The wines are the product of both his own production techniques and time-tested French methods. Visitors to the cellars can gaze upon the aging barrels during tastings led by seasoned wine educators, before taking a bottle home to christen a life-size replica of the Millennium Falcon.
With the vision of a bracelet in mind, a student lays a strip of steel over an anvil and begins bending it under the blows of a hammer. Down the hall, another budding artist pours molten glass into a mold, which soon cools into a decorative orb. Each year, the faculty at The Crucible educates roughly 5,000 adults and children in arts that range from ceramics to fire dancing. Starting in 1999 with a $1,750 grant, the nonprofit's founders?a small group of artists that includes sculptor Michael Sturtz?nurtured a vision that took them from a 6,000-square-foot warehouse to a solar-powered, 56,000-square-foot arts-education studio. Beyond the classrooms, The Crucible also hosts galleries where both students and faculty show their work, exploring the various elements of design or states of longing for a Twinkie.
The two grand exhibition rooms at the Institute of Mosaic Art show off the textured tile work of its staff and visiting artists, with more works displayed outside in its lush garden. Within, more than 80 classes and workshops for all skill levels cover a wide range of topics and techniques, including working with glass, smalti, and tiles, as well as projects such as jewelry and exterior decorations. Visiting artists conduct special workshops, giving students insight into their creative processes and suggestions on the best brand of car windshield to smash for supplies.
The institute also houses Mosaic Studio Supply, which fills its homey halls with materials and manuals for all projects. Mosaic makers can browse the stock of a la carte supplies, from colorful tiles to tools and adhesives, as well as kits full of color-coordinated pieces.
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.