As a child in Buenos Aires, Angel Echeverria would sit on the porch of his family home and watch his aunt and uncle dance the tango. Music often spilled into the streets of his neighborhood, where many tango musicians lived. By the time he was a teenager in the early 1960s, Angel began studying the tango himself, and nearly 50 years later he founded The Tango Room Dance Center with Julie Friedgen. Like Angel, Julie grew up watching her parents’ Argentine friends dance tango at parties, and eventually became a ballet and flamenco dancer. Though she didn’t begin learning the tango until 13 years ago, once she started she immediately knew it was the dance to which she would devote the rest of her life.
Not surprisingly, The Tango Room is dedicated to the Argentine style of dance; many of the instructors hail from Argentina and lead classes in traditional, contemporary, waltz, and milonga variations. On Saturday nights the school transforms into El Encuentro—which translates to “the encounter”—a fast-paced dance party modeled after the tango clubs of Buenos Aires. Beyond tango, the school also hosts classes in salsa, belly dance, and R & B line dancing as well as Zumba and bujinkan, a Japanese martial art.
Linda Wehrli has raw talent. Since age 5, she has re-created her world through drawings and paintings and has channeled her sense of self-expression through playing the piano, abilities that led her to study formally with instructors from Juliard and Cal State Northridge. Now, with her works hanging in private collections, Linda passes on her knowledge to students at Pastimes for a Lifetime.
She teaches students of all skill levels and ages—6-year-olds to seniors—to hone their creativity into life-like or abstract drawings and paintings. Her classes aim to build a foundation of aptitude in one particular medium, such as drawing with pen or charcoal or painting with oils or acrylics—and the necessary supplies can all be purchased at the on-site art shop.
Tapping into her musical talents, she also helms piano lessons, teaching students to read and play music. Her confidence-building approach helps beginners and advanced players alike become better musicians, and inspires those once spurned by a piano that wouldn't settle down to become reacquainted with their abilities. To further their studies, pianists can go home with a book she co-published with her husband.
Most gyms don't limit their membership enrollment, which is why Meridian's Bodies in Motion does. By managing their member count, the workout areas are less crowded and visitors can step right up to machines without wasting precious calorie-burning minutes waiting in line. The staff can focus on keeping the facility clean and getting acquainted with clients, adding personal touches such as greeting members by name every time they enter and swipe their membership card, which means "hello" in several languages.
At each facility, a team of certified fitness instructors encourages exercise efforts during an array of group classes, including Zumba, spin, yoga, Pilates, kickboxing, and cross-training. The certified personal trainers devise customized workout routines and monitor exercisers' forms as they carve muscles lifting free weights and slim down on cardio and strength-training equipment from Icarian, Hammer Strength, Precor, and FreeMotion. Special features—such as racquetball courts, swimming pools, saunas, indoor basketball courts, boxing rings, childcare, and cuddly kitten pits—vary depending on location.
Realizing their community's limited resources for foundational art education, the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art was founded in 2002 as a portal for blossoming art students to sharpen skills with the help of talented, professional artists. Thus, an eclectic team of instructors took shape through a hand-selection process that yielded skill sets from the realms of fine art, entertainment, and paint-by-number calculus. Now in its 10th year of art education, the school—named a top 10 school worldwide by American Artist in Nov. 2011—acts as a springboard for students pursuing degrees in fine arts or the digitally driven video-game and film world of entertainment art. Individual classes afford à la carte education for beginning and advanced students of sculpture, drawing, painting, and illustration. Regardless of the field of study, LAAFA seeks to assist all students in completing advanced degrees at other institutions, accessing local art resources, and solving Van Gogh's tricky magic-eye series.
A diverse team of instructors fills Rising Lotus Yoga's bright studio with a profusion of beginner and advanced yoga classes seven days a week. Through more than a dozen types of yoga classes, the instructors help students deepen familiar poses, develop breathing techniques, and finally remove their yoga mats' training wheels. They teach traditional yoga styles such as Iyengar and hatha-based Gentle & Therapeutics, as well as the studio's signature class, Rising Lotus Flow, which aims to merge body and mind through dynamic, creative vinyasa sequences. The instructors guide students through three different skill levels and can train the most dedicated among them to become yoga teachers.
When not perfecting students' postures and teaching trees to breathe louder, Rising Lotus Yoga's instructors lend their time to the Seva Project, an initiative to bring the healing benefits of yoga to people in crisis.
A gallery of masterpieces showcases stunningly virtuosic renderings—which are especially impressive considering they were created by kids. While fostering a friendly, cheerful atmosphere, instructors teach classical art skills to classes of up to 12 students at a time. During weekly classes, the skilled instructors demonstrate how to realistically illustrate animals, figures, and still-life scenes using traditional media. "Creativity follows mastery" is the KidsArt philosophy, so they designed the sort of program they imagine the old masters would have approved. Planting graphite sticks and paintbrushes in pupils' hands, instructors teach color mixing, show students how to break an image into its component parts, and instill necessary behaviors such as focus and patience. Programs include individualized drawing and painting lessons and special-topic workshops, such as clay sculpture, figure drawing, and Anime/cartooning.