In 1976, Joan Barnes?a Californian mom frustrated with the lack of spaces where she could take her kids for safe and age-appropriate play time?took matters into her own hands and founded Gymboree. In the decades since Gymboree?s founding, Joan?s vision of a safe place where youngsters could build confidence and creativity has come to fruition and spread to 30 countries around the globe. Staffed by attentive and expertly trained instructors, each Gymboree outpost adheres to a curriculum of activities designed by experts to foster the development of children?s? cognitive, physical, and social skills through structured play and close readings of Goodnight Moon. The staffers also conduct entertaining classesthat cover subjects ranging from music to sports, imparting valuable lessons of imagination and physical activity to developing minds. To further set apart her business, Barnes employed nationally renowned playground designer Jay Beck to design the proprietary play equipment at her centers.
JG Kinetics Studio fuses a passion for both dance and fitness in an enrichment center that helps students get in shape and strengthen their dance skills. Ballet, jazz, and hip-hop classes introduce children to the fundamentals of rhythm and movement, and yoga for youth helps manage emotions and anxiety tied to the population explosion of imaginary monsters under their bed. Adult classes such as Zumba and salsa cater to dancers and aerobic exercisers of all skill levels for one-on-one and group instruction. Instructors also organize themed birthday parties that immerse youth in treasure hunts and ‘80s dance music with included birthday cakes and age-appropriate activities.
Light streams into the second-story windows of NYC Fitness, illuminating hardworking exercisers as they pound away on cardio machines or lift weights in the sprawling gym. Meanwhile, expert instructors lead clients of all fitness levels through a slate of classes, including spinning, Pilates, and Zumba.
Power House Pilates instructor Lorraine Edminster seeks to expand the physical strength and range of motion of her students with workouts based on the teachings of Ron Fletcher. Fletcher’s modern Pilates discipline, known as Fletcher Work, relies heavily on slow, dissected movements and percussive breathing techniques, which require practitioners to respire with sound and to the rhythm of the Batman theme song. Each 55-minute private lesson convenes within the calming beige walls of a private studio, where students toughen cores both on the mat and with the help of specialized equipment. Over the course of three sessions, exercises can progressively define abdominals through increased resistance and by drawing on a six-pack in Sharpie.
Having survived two kidney transplants, Denise Perry is no stranger to poor health—or to promoting good health. In 1994 in the basement of a local church, she and her first three dance pupils planted the seeds for Millennium Dance Company, a business that embodies wellness. Today, Denise and her staff of international instructors spur more than 200 students—from 3-year-olds to adults—toward a lifetime of agility, fitness, and creativity in adult and youth dance classes. The classes cater to pupils seeking active fun or professional careers, as Millennium's three dance companies have dominated stages at the Apollo Theater, the Bronx Museum, and the Waldorf Astoria hotel. Adult classes range from the sensual swivels of pole dancing to the flowing poses of yoga. For kids, African dance fosters a sense of community as students move as one to the beat of a live drummer. Modern dance presents the opportunity for pupils to choreograph their own routines based on their innermost emotions or the emotions their mood rings recommend. At year's end, all dancers unite for a community recital that showcases each athlete's talent.
Over the course of a millennium and a half, the tradition of Shaolin Kung Fu has sojourned from the foot of Shaoshi Mountain to modern-day New York. The mindful martial art?equal parts meditation and physical training?crossed the ocean with Shi Guolin, a 34th-generation master of the art. He left his position as head coach at a Shaolin school in China to come to the States in 1992. Since opening his first school in New York, he founded four more branches in locations ranging from Port Washington to Flushing.
At each of these outposts, students can learn Shaolin kung-fu?a discipline that grew out of buddhism; traditional kung fu, which focuses more on physical stamina and strength; and Qigong, a form of wellness-building similar to yoga, developed in Shaolin monasteries. Even people who have never stepped foot in a dojo or formed an opinion about who would win in a fight between Bruce Lee and Kung Fu Panda can feel at home here. Trainers start at the beginning, and ease students in by practicing basic forms. They slowly introduce more techniques, weapon forms, and meditations into the training, all while transforming neophytes into steel-cut martial artists.