There’s nothing wrong with the classic dinner-and-a-movie date, but the start of a new year is a perfect opportunity to resolve to try something different. Whether you’re just getting to know your sweetheart or keeping the spark alive after many years as a couple, learning a fresh skill together or embarking on a shared adventure is a wonderful way to deepen your bond with that special someone. As Valentine’s Day approaches, now’s the ideal time to start getting creative when it comes to date night. Luckily, there are plenty of places nearby where couples can mix it up with more active — and interactive — pastimes. Consult our version of a honey-do list for creative ideas to make you and your partner feel like a truly dynamic duo!
GET THE AX
Yes, we admit, ax throwing is (hopefully) not the first thing that comes to mind when you’re thinking of romance. Your inclination may be to leave it to Paul Bunyan, but “anyone can throw an ax,” professes Carly Chalom, operations manager at LA AX in North Hollywood. “Our coaches will teach you everything you need to know — from how to hold an ax and proper throwing technique to safety protocol.”
“Ax throwing is not dangerous at all and makes you feel like a total badass for doing it!” says Chalom, who says she’s better known as Seven in the ax-throwing community. “Ax throwing is not a strength sport; it’s very much technique-driven. People often come in a little hesitant to try it out, and those people are usually the most successful because they listen to their coach.”
Closed-toe shoes are mandatory for participation. Flannels a la Bunyan are optional.
JOIN THE CIRCUS
“What couple doesn’t want to be a famous trapeze duo?” asks Rex Camphuis, co-founder and executive director of Cirque School in Los Angeles.
At Cirque School, students can learn acrobatics, basic trick training and trapeze and fabric strength. “All of the techniques learned in Cirque School are built on trust, especially when doing partnering acts,” Camphuis says. “When the couple enters class, they learn a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of the other partner, as well as themselves. They get to step out of their comfort zone and learn something new together.”
The Aerial 101 class is the most popular class for couples, he says. “It’s a 60-minute ultimate whole-body workout. We do a Pilates-based ball warmup to help students learn proper alignment, then we move onto a series of beginning techniques and positions on both the trapeze and fabrics. It’s fun to see who in the couple is the better circus act, or as we say, ‘a natural.’ The flow of the class allows for a lot of side-by-side competition and humor.”
IT TAKES TWO
Dance is an age-old form of romance, and the tango is viewed by many as the holy grail of partner dancing, says Emma Bogren, instructor and a founder of LA Tango Academy in North Hollywood. “It’s a journey not only in dance and movement but in awareness of your body and your partner,” she says.
That journey can begin at the academy’s Tango Boot Camp, a special, intensive four-hour introduction to the dance, February 15 and 16. The academy, which teaches social Argentine tango, also offers regularly scheduled classes.
GET YOUR APRON ON
Another recipe for romance is to take your partner on a culinary adventure. A cooking class is “great for couples to interact on a first date or for longtime couples looking to try something different than an ordinary restaurant outing,” says Liz Alexanian, owner and chef instructor at COOK LA in Studio City.
The school offers assorted classes “from preparing worldwide cuisines to basic cooking techniques — and teaches you how to cook foods that heal our bodies, all in a fun, engaging atmosphere designed for all cooking types,” she says — so no worries if your slicing and dicing skills are nonexistent.
Special Valentine’s couples classes include “I Love You Paris,” “Italian Love Affair,” “Cuban Love Story,” “Valentine’s Love Brunch” and “Valentine’s Tapas.”
FEEL THE RHYTHM
What better way to get in tune with your heartbeat than grooving to the beat of a drum? “Feel the love one drum beat at a time!” proclaims Christopher Ramirez, owner of Freedom Drum Circles. Sessions such as social drumming experiences allow couples to meet other rhythm enthusiasts and to get to know their partner “by opening hearts and minds to new sensations of spontaneity and self-discovery through rhythm,” says Ramirez, who’s also director of Burbank Drum Circles Remo RMC, where the sessions are held.
Couples group drumming is also offered and is “good for the mind, body and soul. The rhythm enhances a better understanding of trust, deeper listening with a sense of joy shared in the moment,” Ramirez says. Participants need no experience or drums.
MASTER MARTIAL ARTS
You might not expect a typical date to involve punching and kicking, but “training together as a couple in self-defense has so many positive effects on a relationship,” says Donnie Jeffcoat, owner and chief instructor of Shaolin American Self-Defense Academy in North Hollywood. Self-defense keeps both partners physically fit and encourages a healthy mind and spirit. “The journey to black belt forges a resilient and deep bond between partners,” he says. Plus, he points out, it’s comforting to know that your partner is capable of protecting themselves.
POSE AND REPOSE
“Yoga opens your heart, relaxes your back and helps you be in the present moment with the person you love,” says Shosha Marie Bottoms, owner and yoga therapist at Shosha Yoga in Toluca Lake. Of the various types of yoga, Bottoms recommends restorative yoga for couples. “It teaches you the art of meditation in action as it places less metabolic demand on the body. The restorative class is done with supportive yoga props (bolsters, rope wall, eye bags), helping couples to restore and relax. It’s a great idea for a Friday night date!”
A longtime client who takes the restorative class with her husband says, “It helps us reset from the outer world and communicate clearly and lovingly with one another.”
FRET ABOUT IT
Want to make beautiful music together? Learn to play the guitar as a couple. “Guitar lessons for couples is a great way to learn because you can encourage each other in practice and achieve goals and, of course, duet together,” says Shawn Staples of Shawn Staples Guitar Lessons. The Toluca Lake resident teaches his students in their homes and offers free first lessons for Toluca Lake Magazine readers.
By learning to play together, couples can help each other stay mentally sharp. Staples notes that the “brain is a muscle and needs exercise. It now has been proven that playing music lights up every area of the brain more than any other mental activity, therefore making it the absolute best way to keep your brain healthy.”
Bring a bit of swashbuckling to your relationship by donning a mask and engaging in swordplay with your partner. “It will keep you together longer,” says Tim Weske, owner of Swordplay LA in Burbank. “There’s no better way to get rid of frustration in a relationship than to whack each other with a piece of steel,” he jokes — “in a very safe environment, of course.” Swordplay LA offers lessons on three types of weapons — foil, sabre and epee.
“The exercise makes you sweat and makes you smile, and both of those things are great for couples to share,” Weske says.
TEST THE WATERS
“There is something inherently romantic about being on a small boat on water and around nature. For someone going on a date, you will score points for uniqueness,” notes Steve Appleton of L.A. River Kayak Safari in Los Angeles. His business offers three-hour bike-and-kayak trips on the Los Angeles River. Kayaking gives newcomers an opportunity to “learn a lot about the person you are with. Do they have the enthusiasm and spirit to learn something new? Are they up for adventure? Do you share a love of nature with them?” he says. During the trip, which Appleton describes as a combination of fun, mild whitewater and lazy river parts, couples have “plenty of time to talk and learn more about each other.”