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.
In 2003, the teaching staffs behind the Butler-Fearon and the O?Connor-Kennedy Schools realized something: though both academies nurtured the physical, mental, and competitive skills of scores of young Irish dancers, they could form a more robust program by combining forces. Once united, the team of Rose Fearon, Vincent O?Connor, and Kathleen O?Connor?each a certified Irish dance adjudicator?implemented a revised curriculum reaching students from both American coasts to the solid-ice skyscrapers of Ontario. Today, Butler-Fearon-O'Connor trains everyone from girls buckling their jig shoes for the first time to experienced adults, many of whom?such as 2011 world champion Emily Penner?have danced competitively at home or across the pond and landed spots on touring companies for shows such as Riverdance.
Focusing on perfecting traditional form and technique, classes are kept as small as possible, ensuring personalized attention from one of the school's 10 experienced, decorated instructors. Students also learn stamina, flexibility, and presentation, with an emphasis on avoiding motions that tend to draw judges' ire, such as clumsy arm placement and badgering the audience. Many locations also host more casual classes for adults and groups such as Girl Scout troops.
At Max Fitness Academy, coaches and certified personal trainers team up to devise custom nutrition and exercise programs around individual goals. Coaches tailor meals and workouts, and personal trainers mandate movements in a contemporary gym, which sports strength and cardio equipment alongside mirrored walls and a boxing ring. Guided by a unique Bodymap system, the team outlines nutrition needs and charts progress from each client's very first pushup until they reach their goal of bench-pressing a semitrailer. Specialized programs cater to specific demographics, including new or expectant moms, future brides, and current kids.
The fast-paced workouts of group kickboxing and cross-fitness classes merge socialization and sweating. Kickboxing enlists dynamic combos of kicking, punching, and cardio to chisel entire frames and shed up to 1,200 calories in an hour. Cross-fitness classes tone bodies and improve endurance with light lifting and cardiovascular maneuvers, preparing clients for an upcoming race or attempt to rob Fort Knox.
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.