You can learn the hottest dance, martial art, and fitness trend simultaneously by mastering capoeira (cap-WER-a), a form created by African slaves in Brazil that centuries later became the basis for break dancing (which happens to be back). "If you go to nightclubs on the Lower East Side, you'll see that many kids use the capoeira moves," says Edna Lima, who has practiced it for 24 years. Lima teaches a fitness-related capoeira conditioning class at Chelsea Piers Sports Center, but it's her dynamic martial-arts class downtown that's the real deal -- people ducking, crouching, and jumping rhythmically to miss one another's kicks. "I like to have the advanced people help the beginners, because that's how life is. You have to see the different levels above you to inspire you to learn," says Lima.
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 8 to 9:30 p.m.; $20 per class, or $120 for an intensive month of thirteen classes. 43 White Street, between Broadway and Church Streets (368-2103). The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers, Pier 60, 23rd Street and Twelfth Avenue, hosts an ongoing fitness capoeira class every Saturday, 1:15 to 2 30 p.m.; nonmembers can pay $31 for a day pass (336-6000).
If you prefer something a little less like a Jackie Chan movie but just as exciting, then a class in swing dancing is worth considering. It's also a great place to dance with a partner -- or find one, for that matter, since many people show up solo. With just a four-class series, Harvest Moon Ball champion Margaret Batiuchok (a co-founder of the New York Swing Dance Society and the instructor for the most popular series of swing videos) can teach you to lindy like those fun-loving folks in Swingers and the Gap's "Khakis Swing" commercials. (Well, maybe not quite like the acrobatic kids in the commercials. But close.) "A lot of Charleston steps are in now," says Batiuchok. "It's a bouncier style than it used to be, with a lot more kicks and swing-outs. I give people a sense of the rhythm patterns and teach them the newest steps, and then let them go and put their own style into it -- because everybody has a style." Even you.
Four sessions for beginners, Wednesdays beginning October 7, 7 and 8:30 p.m.; $60. 550 Broadway (598-0154). Preview Batiuchok's class on October 4 at Irving Plaza on Irving Place (696-9737), where $13 buys an hour-long lesson at 7 p.m., followed by swing dancing to a live band until midnight.
THE JIG IS UP
Riverdance is back -- and this time, instead of scuffing the kitchen floor trying to do Irish step-dancing, you can learn to reel for real at the Irish Arts Center. Josephine McNamara, who's been teaching step dance since she arrived from Dublin in 1959, points out (in her heavy brogue), "The center is different from most dance places, because anybody is welcome. I like everybody to enjoy themselves." Her class progresses from what she calls "your basic sevens and threes" to slip jigs, reels, jig double reels, and the blackbird. (Her version is more traditional and disciplined than the Lord of the Dance, but you can add your own elaborate hand gestures later.) The Irish Arts Center also offers instruction in a variety of other Irish dances, including the Ceili and set dancing, and though the center suggests people start with a general introductory course, Josephine is always willing to make an exception.
Eight sessions, Mondays beginning September 28; $70. Irish Arts Center, 553 West 51st Street (757-3318).