A black-tie affair with good times in mind, San Francisco Chic! is an annual party that rings in the new year with panache. Held at the Westin Hotel, the party spreads across several different rooms—guests might laugh it up with the comedians in attendance, head over to hear the funk, soul, and rock-and-roll of party hosts Top Shelf, listen to jazz with Sonya Jason, or groove with Raquel con Bolero y Mas! for salsa dancing. Additional packages include dinner theater, a makeshift casino that donates its proceeds to charity, and a bouncer to make sure 1973 doesn’t try to come back for seconds.
The Junior League of Oakland-East Bay sprung into existence more than 70 years ago, but the history of the larger organization dates back to the turn of the 20th century. In 1901, Mary Harriman and 85 other women founded the Junior League for the Promotion of Settlement Movements, a charity devoted to the improvement of the human condition. Today, the Oakland-East Bay branch carries on that do-good philosophy. They've launched such nonprofits as The East Bay Children's Theatre, the Volunteer Center of the East Bay, the Family Stress Center, and Super Stars Literacy.
At Bay West Ballroom, students learn how to tango alongside their identical twin, whether they were actually born with one or not. The studio's eastern wall of mirrors stretches for 60 feet, ensuring that students’ reflections are always visible as they spin on the sprung beech-wood floor. On the opposite side, windows admit sunlight and scenic views of the hills, creating an ethereal space where seasoned instructors demonstrate ballroom, Latin, and swing dance styles. Drawing from a diverse curriculum, these instructors cover a broad spectrum of disciplines that range from the cha-cha to the country two-step, encouraging practice in both the classroom and social settings. For example, lessons on popular salsa steps prepare pupils to spin at nightclubs, and wedding courses customize choreography to match a chosen song at elegant receptions.
Directors Mark and Andrea Nelson-Novak have both earned championship titles, and Andrea draws on a degree in biology to better inform her protégés on anatomy, movement, and the location of the body’s rhythm glands. The pair enlists other experts—including US Country and Swing Champion Tony Gutsch and Grand National Latin Finalists Dima and Olga Sukachov—to helm specialized and regular classes. The team also hosts holiday parties each year.
At Marin Murder Mysteries, dinner mates may ask you to pass the rolls just before they begin chipping away at your alibi. That’s because guests are both suspects and sleuths during the theater troupe’s interactive performances, attempting to tally the clues and pinpoint the culprit's motive. Each year, the cast and crew serve up three to four different shows that inject generous portions of slapstick into the familiar detective genre. The writers and directors have a particular fondness for the noir-soaked era of the 1950s, with such past plays as Remains to be Seen, Murder Me, Always, and Death of a Doornail. During the show, guests have the option to dine on a gourmet dinner or sip cocktails from a cash bar.
Trapeze School New York’s expansion west meant Angelenos no longer had to cross the country to join the circus. At their outdoor studio on the Santa Monica Pier, highly trained instructors teach beginner, intermediate, and advanced maneuvers during classes on the flying trapeze, aerial silks, lyra, trampoline, and Spanish web. All of Trapeze School New York’s countrywide facilities in New York, Boston, Washington, DC, Chicago, and LA hold themselves to high safety standards that account for everything from equipment to instructors and safety belts. In an effort to bring their flying-trapeze instruction to surrounding communities regardless of funding, the school also gives lessons through their nonprofit branch of operations.
At Kinetic Arts Center, students run away to the circus because it's a more fun way to stay fit than running around a track. There they learn circus arts such as modern dance steps, adventurous trapeze routines, and physics-bending parkour moves. And not only do classes keep students, who range from toddlers to adults, in good shape, but they also prepare them for performing in front of a crowd. Pupils can also study juggling and clowning. They're taught by a roster of teachers whose long r?sum?s include backgrounds in dance, theater, and the circus arts.