We shudder to repeat the clichéd adage about teaching a man to fish . . . But it's true that education offers deep rewards — ones that last longer, in many cases, than physical items. That's why we're focusing this guide on the gifts of experience — your nearest and dearest might not hold these presents in their hands, but they'll certainly hold you in their hearts for giving them knowledge. Want to go a step further? Sign yourself up too, and offer companionship as well as scholarship.
AYPERI Photo: Jon Reece
Step Up 2 Da Streets
More tactful than a gym membership, this gift is also more fun, especially if you tag along! There are so many participatory dance options in this town, it's difficult to narrow down the choices. Why not make it an exercise in highlighting the recipient's hidden qualities, then? Give your most soft-spoken co-worker a class card for AFRICAN DANCE lessons at Maine Ballroom Dance Studio ($40 for a four-class card); he will revel in the live drumming and traditional West African rhythms, as well as the lively workout led by Marita Kennedy-Castro. Your party-girl friend can find her graceful center at PORTLAND BALLET's beginner classes; wrap up a $100 eight-class card in a new pair of leg warmers. A group of ladies in need of a confidence boost would love a belly-dance party with AYPERI; it's $225 for an hour-long lesson and performance for up to 10 people. And for that couple who seem to be so in-sync, pick up a six-week session at the AMERICAN BALLROOM DANCE ACADEMY ($60 per person), redeemable for ballroom- or Latin-dance classes.
African dance class | Maine Ballroom Dance | 614 Congress St., Portland | 207.772.0002 | maineballroomdancing.com
Portland Ballet | 517 Forest Ave., Portland | 207.772.9671 | portlandballet.org
Ayperi | 207.409.9540 | raqsayperi.com
American Ballroom Dance Academy | 207.838.1180 | northeastdancing.com
Know any ambitious gourmands? Let them follow their foodie dreams by signing them up for cooking classes. THE BLACK TIE COMPANY offers $65 classes at its One Union Wharf location on two Wednesday nights per month; winter and spring offerings include workshops on Cajun cooking, party foods, soups, and vegetarian cuisine. Check their Web site for a current schedule. THE STONEWALL KITCHEN COOKING SCHOOL offers lunchtime and evening classes for aspiring home cooks at their instructional kitchen in York. Most of the classes are geared toward preparation of a specific meal or menu; on December 17, for example, the school will offer its "Holiday at Home" class, with savory popovers, haricots verts, sea scallops, and apple fritters on the menu ($35; 12-1:30 pm). Attendees watch and learn from professional guest chefs, who provide step-by-step instructions, tastings, and take-home recipe booklets. Register online, and soon — classes tend to sell out quickly!
The Black Tie Company | One Union Wharf, Portland | 207.761.6665 | theblacktiecompany.com
Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School | 2 Stonewall Lane, York | 877.899.8363 | stonewallkitchen.com
Journey to the Center