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Class Mates:
Back to School Romance for Grown-ups

or, Just How Big an Apple are You Looking for, Professor?

by Jillian Perlberger

Ah, fall. The return of autumn's cool breezes stirs fond memories of "back to school"... the friends, the parties, the hooking up, and, oh yeah, the learning. In other words, college. Well, even if your bright college years are behind you, you can still recapture those halcyon days (or at least the good parts, the people and the learning).

Continuing education classes have all the benefits of college without the drawbacks of massive tuition and graded exams. Moreover, if you live in a great city like New York, it's a way to remind yourself why you're here in the first place. If you're not a native, consider paying the Big Apple a visit for a unique week or more (depending how much time you can spare) of only-in-New-York education!

It's a Helluva Town

New York has more than its share of universities that offer classes in just about everything to non-matriculating students (e.g. The New School, NYU, Columbia). But there are also institutions unique to this big apple where you can learn cooking, for example, from the city's most celebrated chefs, dance from actual Broadway hoofers, or art appreciation from contemporary artists who show at the finest museums.

By picking an activity you like, of course, you essentially guarantee that you'll meet someone who shares your interests. In any case, you'll have gained a glimmer of understanding as to why some people pay $1500 a month to live in a walk-up studio in this town. Below, a highly subjective guide to some of the best ways to get out there and learn something new in the city that never sleeps.

Are You an Exhibitionist?

Several museums around the city offer lecture series that are tied in with current exhibitions or tailored to their permanent collections. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is, of course, a standout. A friend who attended a recent lecture series on the Italian architect Palladio was inspired to visit Italy on her next vacation. And, as we know, anything can happen when one travels abroad.

This fall's offerings at the Met include a Tuesday night lecture series entitled "A Short History of Art at the Met" which traces the history of Western art from ancient times to the present through some of the Metropolitan Museum's most revered masterworks. There's also a Wednesday night series entitled "A Tale of Four Cities" focussing on the art produced (in their respective heydays) in Munich, Genoa, London, and Barcelona.

If modern art is more your bag, the Museum of Modern Art offers two unique lecture series to New Yorkers (particularly those working in midtown): "Brown Bag Lunches" on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 12:30, at which MoMA curators lecture on current exhibitions; and "Conversations with Contemporary Artists" on Fridays at 6:30 p.m., at which artists speak about their work on display in the Museum's galleries. The Friday lectures are followed by a reception for the artists and attendees. In BTD speak: maximum meet and greet potential!

You Must Be Joking

Calling itself New York's longest-running comedy showcase club (and claiming to be the original home of Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, and others), Comic Strip Live is indeed a venerable stand-up comedy institution. It also offers some of the best classes to be found in the art of writing and performing stand-up material.

The classes are taught by an experienced and successful stand-up comedian who appears frequently at the club himself. Students are given the basic tools of writing standup, critiqued on the material they come up with over the eight-week period of the course, and finally given an opportunity to perform a five-minute routine in the club itself. During the course, students improve tremendously in their joke writing and delivery. The class I took was made up of a fun and funny group of people, split about evenly between men and women. [Your punchline goes here.]

Shall We Dance?

New York City is where it's at for dancers of all kinds, from Broadway hoofers to swing and salsa to the genuinely avant garde. Many professional dancers make ends meet, or simply share their love of the art, by teaching classes in studios that are surprisingly manageable for your average clumsy oaf (i.e., me).

Steps, with perhaps the most impressive faculty of any dance school in the city, offers classes for masters and beginners alike, at all times of day or night. I personally recommend this studio both for its great quality, its variety of classes, and its proximity to Fairway (always good for that well-earned nosh after a grueling dance workout).

Hey Good Lookin', Is That Pan-Seared Tuna with Mango Coulis?

You can take a cooking class through any number of venues in New York City, but none will give you quite the hands-on experience, thoroughly expert guidance, and sheer variety of Peter Kump's School of Culinary Arts.

Although it offers degree programs for those serious about cooking as a career, it is equally renowned for its so-called "recreational classes," for those of us who just want to enhance our dinner-party-making abilities, learn a particular ethnic cuisine, or simply become less clueless in the kitchen. Classes offered this fall include "Best-Ever Brunches" and "Hearty Winter Stews." (Both of which can figure significantly in your quest to learn how to cook seductively.)

The classes run from one to five sessions. Five-session classes are offered either once a week or during "one-week intensives," which are a great way for out-of-towners to spend a vacation in New York. Classes meet from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day and consist of learning the fundamentals, putting them into practice, and sitting down to a multi-course meal with wine with your fellow soon-to-be-expert-chefs.

More: Sprinting for Romance, Mixology, Mr./Ms. Write


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