Learning New Stuff
13 Classes that Are More Fun than School
terri fensel photograph
It takes two to …
Christina Johnson fell in love with tango 15 years ago. Since then, the trained counselor has also been teaching Argentine tango classes and has developed a relationship workshop for couples called Beyond Tango.
“I call it the ‘relationship dance,’” Johnson says. “The way people make a connection to the music – the tango is all about being very connected to your partner.”
Johnson developed that workshop after many trips to Argentina to study the dance in its culture of origin and several years of teaching the dance herself.
“My way of teaching really involves the masculine and feminine essences and how they work together in a dance,” she says. “I love the music.”
Johnson says learning the tango together definitely helps people have insights into their relationships.
“But whether they make changes from there – that is up to them,” she says. “The dance involves people being respectful, courteous and genuinely connecting with other people.”
Johnson is teaching beginner tango classes at Camellia House in Lafayette (a series of six lessons).
Pack and Paddle
601 E. Pinhook Road, Lafayette
From a hands-on kayak saltwater fishing class on the water to paddling through the virgin cypress forest in a canoe to Indian Bayou hiking trips, Pack and Paddle of Lafayette keeps a constant slate of learning opportunities for the adventurous and not-so-adventurous.
Stacey Scarce, a naturalist, guides many of the trips. Pack and Paddle takes care of the logistics and provides the canoes or kayaks.
“It’s good for the soul,” Scarce says. “It’s exercise. Being in nature is calming – great for stress. If you’re bird-watching, you get to learn and watch how nature happens around you. You get to meet like-minded people and possibly find people you can go hiking and paddling with on your own.”
Different trips cater to different groups of people from strictly hiking to bird-watching with hiking and/or paddling.
Sometimes the group, guided by Scarce, collects edible plants and then tries them. Scarce guides trips through Lake Martin, the Atchafalaya Basin, the Nezpique River and many more.
Excursions range in price, starting at about $25 per person, and many of the trips include lunch or dinner. For a complete schedule, go to packpaddle.com.
Want to be a pool shark?
White Diamond Billiards
6722 Johnston St., Lafayette
Chris Miller, owner of White Diamond Billiards, is an Acadiana pool and billiards legend. Miller offers individual lessons from beginner to advanced. He’s also willing to work with couples interested in learning together.
“Lessons can make them enjoy the game more,” he says. “They learn the fundamentals of doing things right. Learning new or better techniques makes them more competitive if they’re playing in local leagues.”
Miller’s lessons are a bargain at $20
Education for Living
4134 Locke Lane, Lake Charles
Describing what happens in an Education for Living workshop is a challenge, but at their core, the workshops are designed to help educate participants to be better observers of themselves, other people and life in general.
“All the workshops are educational,” says Laurie Riquelmy, Education for Living CEO and trainer. “Because we teach people to be better observers, they have a different perspective when they finish the workshops. They have new choices and possibilities that open for them.”
The promise of the workshop is that participants leave with the skills and experiences to be better designers of their lives, as opposed to simply handling whatever life throws their way, according to Riquelmy.
“You will learn, in an experiential way, how you listen, how to better understand why people may not get you and address that sense of what’s missing that so many of us have,” she says.
The workshops focus on moods and mood management, plus participants are asked to look at the relationship each has with him- or herself and then see how that influences relationships with others.
“People leave the workshop with a sense of completion,” Riquelmy says. “Incompletions have a way of holding us back. We think when we speak that we’re reporting reality. ‘Our spouse is a certain way.’ ‘Our kids are difficult.’ ‘Some people are creepy.’ We learn in the workshops that our language doesn’t disclose a certain reality, but it can generate a reality.”
EFL was founded in Baton Rouge 25 years ago.
Call April Fontana a tennis missionary. Tennis changed her life, and she wants to help spread the word.
At age 41, Fontana walked onto a court, and her life was forever transformed. In the past 11 years, she’s taken her passion and gotten other people on board. All total, through the tennis classes, beginner leagues and workshops Fontana has organized, more than 815 women have learned the game. Most have become active members of area tennis leagues.
“It’s a wonderful way of meeting people,” she says of the ladies’ beginners-level tennis classes she’s formed.
“The social aspect that takes place – that’s the greatest gift, the connection it makes between people. It’s priceless, really. I could not estimate the number of great friendships the lessons have helped form.”
The classes are geared for adults from the ages of 19 to 100, but the oldest student Fontana has taught was 56.
Along with regional tennis pros, Fontana sees to it that students learn the basics and rules of the game – how to do a proper forehand, backhand and serve and how to volley.
“The thing about tennis is that, in my opinion, anybody can play tennis,” she says.
In Lafayette, 849 women play tennis in daytime leagues. But Fontana wants that number to grow: “I want to get everybody playing tennis – or at least try it,” she says.
Her 10-week program starts on the first Monday following Labor Day. There’s usually a waiting list, so sign up early if you’re able. All the classes meet at 9 a.m., and the cost is a bargain of $75 for 10 weeks of lessons with tennis pros.
“The most gratifying thing for me is the friendships I’ve seen form,” Fontana says. “I’ve had doctors, nurses, housekeepers and hairdressers bond right there on the tennis court.”
Fontana says the ladies from the first class she ever formed are still going to lunch together.
After the first series of 10 lessons in the fall, Fontana coordinates a spring session for the participants to get the feel of a tennis league.
“For 12 weeks, we simulate a tennis league,” she says.
She devotes a lot of time and energy and does her best to select the right people to play together. Generally, the teams she forms go on to join the United States Tennis Association league. The cost for the spring session is $65.
"That covers everything from the courts to the balls and the little gifts at the end of the session,” Fontana adds. Fontana’s tennis mission is alive and well.
Feng shui with flowers
Cheryl Taylor Bowie
Whether you’re ignorant of even the basics of feng shui (a Chinese method of placing and arranging things) or know a lot about it, feng shui with flowers is a powerful way to inject good energy into your home or office.
Participants enjoy this class because it is easy and hands-on. In fact, everyone leaves with a flower arrangement and a list of things to do with flowers and plants for specific needs – health, romance, prosperity.
“It’s therapeutic,” says Cheryl Taylor Bowie, a feng shui expert. “Feng Shui Seika, which literally means ‘living flowers,’ is actually a type of meditation.”
Taylor says that people who have taken the class and continued creating the arrangements in their homes have reported amazing differences in their lives.
“I’ve heard things from ‘improved sales’ to ‘a new guy showed up in my life’ or ‘my house just feels better,’” Taylor says.
On a personal level, Taylor says her own husband has noticed the difference and encourages her to buy flowers or brings them home for her to arrange. Feng Shui Seika encourages the use of greenery from your own lawn with plants and flowers that grow easily in Acadiana.
The three-hour workshops usually begin at 1 p.m. and end at 4 p.m. Participants are asked to bring floral scissors or regular scissors, a floral frog (a metal pin arranger found at arts and crafts stores), a wide-mouth vase or bowl with a flat bottom (bring two if you want to do more than one arrangement) and a hand towel.
The cost of a class is $68, half due in advance, which includes flowers and a tea ceremony at end of class. Contact Taylor or information on the next workshop or to learn how to set one up for your own group of friends.
Help needed in your kitchen?
The Accidental Chef
406 Garfield, Lafayette
The Accidental Chef is a much-needed addition to the Acadiana culinary scene. With a regular schedule of classes and special workshops, chef Carlos Russo is adding to the region’s existing depth of food magic.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 90-minute lunch classes at $50 per person include three courses, wine, recipe packets, tax and gratuity. The four-course dinner classes last twice as long and, conveniently, are twice the price at $100 per person. Each class focuses on hands-on instruction and recipes that participants can easily transfer to their kitchens at home.
Both the lunch and dinner classes are great team-building exercises for an office or fun for a group of old and new friends. They’re also a great idea for something different to do the next time out-of-town guests visit.
Russo specializes in Italian, Cajun and Creole cuisine, but he’s not the only one teaching. Other chefs join in the fun and add to the variety of cuisines taught at The Accidental Chef.
Although walk-ins are welcome to join the regular schedule of classes, he recommends reservations. Russo says his concept is simple. He offers small classes, the best chefs in Acadiana and one-on-one interaction with each student.
Increase your birdbrain
Wild Birds Unlimited
137 Arnould Blvd., Lafayette
At 9 a.m. on the first Saturday of every month, Jack and Rose Must, owners of Wild Birds Unlimited, host a “bird chat” in their store. Experienced and newbie birdwatchers sit and discuss the birds they’re seeing. The group then follows their discussion with a field trip to a yard of interest.
The free and informal gathering is a great way for new birdwatchers to meet and learn from area experts.
Oasis Bellydance Studio
428 Rena Drive, Lafayette
“People usually join for a laugh but stick around because they enjoy it so much,” says Dayna Price, owner of and teacher at Oasis Bellydance Studio. “My students usually start out feeling timid and self-conscious. By the end of eight weeks, they’ve learned a belly dance. They start out in baggy, loose clothes, but by the end they’re in tank tops and not shy about making their body parts jiggle.”
Belly dancing, according to the experts, is a fun night out for the girls. Plus, it’s great exercise – good for abdominal-building and cardio.
“I believe every girl over age 11 would enjoy this class,” Price says. “The classes are really good for self-image.
Students learn that you don’t have to be a stick to be sensual, sexy and beautiful. All shapes and sizes can be beautiful. In fact, it’s better to have a little more padding so you can shake.”
Price said belly dancing classes work well for a variety of groups of girls and women. “Teenagers take the class with their moms, and it’s great,” Price says.
The classes are also for groups of women from work or college-aged women.
“Older ladies, too,” Price adds. “The older ladies usually have more fun than the rest of us.”
Price started teaching belly dancing in 2001.
“It’s spiritual in a feminine way,” she says, explaining that one theory about the origin of belly dance is that the dance was a way to pass down knowledge from mother to daughter.
Her classes are one hour long and last for 10 weeks. Different levels of classes are offered for beginning and intermediate dancers. The cost of the classes is $60 for 10 weeks of lessons.
Let’s get metaphysical
Allyson Glynn Schram
Local psychic medium Allyson Glynn Schram coordinates a series of metaphysical classes every Tuesday night in the Fine Arts Lab at South Louisiana Community College.
“We tend to lean toward metaphysical classes of new thought such as holistic modalities of healing,” she says." "These are very positive upbeat presenters, all who desire to be spiritually attuned.”
Schram also hosts other workshops, including one on Emotional Freedom Technique from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 11, led by Gail Gillespie.
Everyone is invited to attend the Tuesday night classes, and there is no pre-registration necessary – just pay the $20 at the door.
Ready for a close up?
Acadiana Open Channel
704 Lee Ave., Lafayette
Ever wondered how you could potentially get involved in Louisiana’s growing movie scene? Acadiana Open Channel has the answer. The public access station exists to support the public’s right to free speech, as designated by the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights. The teaching facility offers beginner-friendly workshops to help its members – and membership is easy. Simply fill out a short form and pay the $35 fee for an individual.
AOC offers a variety of workshops to train its members on both sides of the camera and in all aspects of video production. Its mission is to support diverse community dialogue, media literacy and freedom of expression by providing access to communication technologies. AOC’s state-of-the-art production capabilities, television studio, editing systems, lighting equipment, sound equipment and computer graphic capabilities are available at no charge to members.
Vermilion Bay Yarn Co.
2100 Verot School Road, Suite 8, Lafayette
Out at the Vermilion Bay Yarn Co., owner and teacher Jason Pennington schedules between two and six classes each month – everything from socks to sweaters and some in between. The shop also hosts “knit-alongs,” and there’s an easy spot for folks to sit in a circle and knit.
For $30, Pennington will teach you or your child the basics of knitting – and you can go back as many times as you’d like to refresh your memory or improve your technique. The fee also includes beginner wooden needles and yarn.
More advanced technique classes meet for one session and might cover a couple of topics or several smaller-scale topics.
“Since technique classes require no ‘homework,’ some months I schedule more of those type classes in one block,” Pennington says.
For summer, Pennington will schedule two of the most popular and useful classes for knitters: Fixing Mistakes and Knitter’s Tool Box.
“Classes at VBYC all have the same focus: to give folks the tools to improve their work and present opportunities to challenge fiber-work skills to expand creativity,” Pennington says. “Classes are designed to inspire within a supportive and confidence-building atmosphere.”
Hello to Life
200 W. University Ave., Lafayette
Fran Clarke’s personal growth workshops for women are becoming the stuff of legend in Acadiana. "When people come together with the intention for growth and focusing on that experience for ourselves, there’s a sense of safety and community to be able to hold people to be more open, honest and reach deeper inside themselves,” Clarke says.
She recommends the courses for:
• Women who are feeling like there’s something more to life
• Women who have a yearning to be more alive
• Women who want to be more passionate
• Women who have a sense that something’s holding them back – even if they don’t know what it is
• Women who have had some type of life-changing experience – divorce, death, shifting in age
• Women who are committed to their own personal growth.
“Since we started the workshops in 2002, 27 groups of women have made this commitment,” Clarke says. “It’s people who are just beginning to wake up, people who are highly enlightened. It can reach people wherever they are in their growth process – and it’s joyful.”
Clarke will lead the first workshop in the series, Callings: Finding Your Authentic Self, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 25 and July 23. The cost for the workshop is $120, and it requires registration. The subsequent workshop, Heroine’s Journey, lasts for 15 sessions and meets every three to five weeks over the course of a year. The group is limited to eight participants and costs $65 per session. The Dynamic Women course follows Heroine’s Journey; it is 10 two-hour sessions at $60 per session.
“Dynamic Women … is very intensive, fast-paced and brings in our responsibility as citizens of the world,” Clarke says. “That we make a difference in everything we do and think. What kind of differences to we want to make? We do that by our own personal work. These women are exploding with the shifts and changes they’re making."