Best Place to Learn How to Fly 2013 | Altitude Aerials & Dance Co. | Shopping & Services | Phoenix

In addition to being a serious art form, circus acrobatics has become a trendy way to stay fit, and in downtown Phoenix, this total-body practice is made accessible for both athletes and fitness newbies alike. Class levels start with beginner aerial yoga, practiced in a safe, comfortable hammock to encourage development of basic strength, flexibility, and spatial awareness. To get a feel for flight, introductory series in acrobatics help students get comfortable on performance apparatuses like silks, rope, and trapeze. And, for those who dream of running away to join a traveling circus show — dancing high above the cheering crowd, suspended on a spinning metal hoop — Altitude offers higher-level instruction to fine-tune acrobatic technique and learn daring mid-air drops. Director Nicole Crist has a background in jazz and modern dance and first took to the sky in 2005, studying with top performers in NYC. She returned to Phoenix last year to bring aerial acrobatics to Arizona and teach, collaborate, and choreograph this exciting movement art in her safe, supportive studio.

GROWop is a group effort. The RoRo-adjacent shop's owners, Josh Hahn and Kenny Barrett, work with local designers and makers to stock the plaid-painted bungalow storefront. That means it's a great place to discover up-and-coming Phoenix-area creatives alongside Hahn and Barrett's handpicked vintage pieces, like plaid button-ups, kitschy home décor, and patterned skirts. The pair also works with national brands like Pendleton's The Portland Collection to keep ultra-fresh finds in stock. Between the vintage goodies, local wares, and über-new clothing, there's always something worth toting home.

Bob and Mandy Russell are the father-daughter team behind online luxury fashion exchange Klury. The pair set out to make designer fashions accessible for folks on any kind of budget, and with their online storefront, they succeed in spades. They'll buy items directly from people's closets through an e-mail and mailing system that guarantees quality and label authentication. Phoenix-area fashionables looking to consign items can set up an in-person appointment to have their pieces listed. Buying takes less effort, though, as Klury boasts such stylish stock as Miu Miu purses, Elizabeth & James pumps, and Oliver Peoples sunglasses. So chic. So cheap. Definitely worth freaking out over.

When we hear the term "antiques mall," we expect to be overwhelmed — a wide selection, numerous vendors, and the potential to spend at least an hour browsing. Luckily, Zinnias at Melrose delivers. With roughly 30 vendors, this mall offers an expansive selection of retro, modern, industrial, and the increasingly popular grandma chic. Like an everyday garage sale, this Seventh Avenue warehouse includes aisles of midcentury Pyrex dishware, vintage suitcases, discarded mannequins, commercial signage, and an endless sea of tchotchkes — souvenir cups, porcelain figurines, you name it. Of course, while Zinnia's at Melrose is a great way to save time and money in your antique shopping adventures, a good thrifter should always proceed with a keen eye — because while one man's trash is another man's treasure, it can easily end up the other way around.

Burlesque queen Kitty Victorian is on a quest to transform the mousy wallflowers of the Valley into empowered va-va-voom vixens of stage. And she's doing it one tassel twirl at a time via her Burlesque University. Based out of its studio within the historic Laird Apartment building near Third Avenue and McDowell Road, the school offers a pair of six-week courses of study to instruct women interested in embracing their more sensual side, learning the art of the tease, or joining the ranks of professional dancers. The first, Burlesque 101, sees Victorian teach would-be peelers how to shake their lovely lady lumps, put together a routine, and assemble costuming (among other topics). It all leads up to a graduation performance at the school's ongoing Birthday Suit Burlesque revues. Students can continue their training in Burlesque 201, which tackles the business end of the trade (like learning how to market yourself or applying to festivals) and teaches how to accentuate one's burgeoning talents through various drop-in sessions concerning fan-dancing or pin-up modeling. For those who aren't trying to become the next Dita Von Tease, who are more interested in overcoming shyness or spicing up their relationships, the school also offers fun one-off sessions with subject matter ranging from "How to Strip For Your Lover" to "Confidence for Curvy Girls."

Herbie Hancock's groundbreaking 1983 song "Rockit" was a landmark piece of DJ culture. It introduced the art of record scratching to the masses while inspiring thousands of future wax workers, including local selector Jay "Akshen" Valdez. And its historical and personal impact is why he uses the song as the basis for some of the many lessons that make up the various "Turntableology 101" curriculum he teaches at Cyphers. Akshen, who's been spinning for 28 years, covers the ins and outs of the ones and twos at the Center for Urban Arts via a few different options. On the final Friday of every month, Valdez conducts a two-hour symposium (open to potential platter jocks of any age) that's aimed at introducing them to the art of DJing using a hands-on approach. It features loads of history — including the contributions of Kool Herc and Grand Wizard Theodore, as well as "a lot of nerdy stuff" — and firsthand experience with turntables and mixing gear, and guest appearances by such local club scene veterans as DJ Reflekshin. (Additional less-structured versions focusing solely on kids ages 5 to 12 also are offered separately on various Saturday afternoons.) Teens and adults eager for additional schooling can then enroll in a more comprehensive 12-week program that starts in late fall and emphasizes such vital skills as beat-juggling, cuing, and song-selecting. Valdez already has led at least one prodigy to major success: his son, DJ Yeah, who was recognized in 2004 as the youngest scratcher ever, at age 5. So, if he can teach a hyperactive tyke how to light up the decks, we're sure he can school you — or your kids.

For a girly vintage fix in downtown Phoenix, Andrea Engelsberg's Annie Boomer Vintage fits the feminine bill. Engelsberg cops to loving frills, pleats, lace, and delicate details. But the shop girl's eye for grown-gal style means the shop's stock promises delightful, not babydoll, duds. The bungalow boutique holds fringed flappery dresses and hand-painted wedges, plus kookier finds like a two-piece blue leather motorcycle outfit.

1810 North Scottsdale Road, Tempe 480-947-8245Looking for the perfect pair of broken-in Levi's 501s? How about a nicely distressed denim jacket? Maybe some beautifully frayed high-waist cutoffs, while we're at it? Jot Blue Jean Buyer down on your shops-to-visit list. Now. The small store packs in a whole lot of the everyman's heavy-duty cotton textile. In fact, you'll find a whole wall dedicated to it, a wall covered with more cuts, colors, and styles than you'll find on your best day of Goodwill hunting. Unsure of how to style your rocker-biker item? No thing. You'll find nicely worn band T-shirts, leather jackets, turquoise jewelry, and rugged boots and belts, too.

We were rooting around in the family safe and came across Dad's old Bulova wristwatch. A gorgeous rose gold with a tinted, magnified crystal, it had been Mom's wedding day gift to Dad in 1946 and was inscribed to him with love. It was dead as a doornail, but how could we not send it out for restoration? We braced ourselves: Restoring a nearly 70-year-old watch would not only be costly, we figured, but might also mean dealing with some snotty weirdo who wanted to talk us into buying matching earrings or something else equally annoying.

Boy, were we wrong. A quick Internet search for "vintage watch restoration Phoenix" turned up — huzzah! — a Phoenix-based service called Vintage Watch Restoration, which resulted in one of the best jewelry experiences we've ever had. In the watch-repair business since 2001, owner Bruno Park (a charming, French-speaking fellow from the island of Mauritius) not only came and picked up Dad's watch from our office, but ended up charging us less than his already-low estimate for repair and restoration. (Park also accepts watches through the mail and reportedly does international business as a restorationist.) We wear Dad's watch every day now, and it not only looks great and makes us feel closer to him, but it tells time, too. Now we're scrounging around, looking for other broken watches for Mr. Park to repair.

From Halloween to Easter, it seems we never run out of reasons to play dress-up. But when the seasonal pop-up shops are gone and all you can find online are sexy substitutes, there's one place in town that keeps the role-play rolling. Easley's Fun Shop has been bringing the fun to Phoenix for more than 60 years, starting as a magic store, expanding with gag gifts and novelty items, and ultimately filling its floor space with one of the largest selections of costumes in town. Easley's is a hard-to-miss yellow warehouse wonderland offering costumes for sale and for rent, for kids and adults, for dogs, and, well, you get the picture. Whether you're just looking for the final touches of a wig and makeup or the full get-up to buy or rent, Easley's is the easy answer to all your costume needs.

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