Things to try in 2018

Class instructor Sophie Hiller, right, teaches a new routine to Allison Cameron Parry during a burlesque class at Spindrift Studios. — Gabrielle Mannino

Winter is a time to a) sit at home and reflect — preferably in front of the TV or computer screen — or b) get out of the house and try something new. Here are some suggestions for activities you may never have even considered but, why not experiment? And, at the very least, make a few new acquaintances.

Have you always been intimidated by the thought of public speaking? You never know when you might be called upon to make a speech or say a few words in front of a crowd, so why not prepare yourself now? The Oak Bluffs Council on Aging hosts M.V. Toastmasters twice a month. Learn speaking and leadership skills such as time management and teamwork. The Toastmasters program uses prepared speeches as well as exercises like impromptu speaking and workbook projects. Come check out a meeting, then join up as a member if you want to continue. There is a small annual fee, and they meet on the first and fourth Wednesday of each month from 5 to 6:30 pm.

Table tennis, anyone? You may not know it, but there’s been a Table Tennis Club on the Vineyard since the 1990s, and new people join all the time. Every Tuesday and Thursday members and newcomers get together at the high school cafeteria for some serious (or not so serious) competition. According to club secretary Rae Carter, participants represent a broad range in terms of age, nationality, and profession, although she’d like to see more women joining in. “There are all skill levels involved, from newcomers to phenomenal players,” she says. There are even some 80-year-olds. Those new to table tennis can benefit from advice and guidance. “It’s a great sport, because anybody can do it on any level,” says Ms. Carter, “and It’s a great workout.” The club meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 to 8:30 pm. Come check it out a couple of times for free, and you might consider joining the club.

Even if you haven’t put on a pair of ice skates for years — or never — you don’t need to be intimidated. The MV Ice Arena has public skating hours every day, and the open sessions attract a range of skaters from wobbly beginners to skilled hockey and figure skating buffs. For current, former, or wannabe hockey players, there are two options. It’s Never Too Late Hockey sessions are open to all from teens on up. Senior Hockey is for those 40 and up. (Didn’t know you were a senior, did you?) The Martha’s Vineyard Figure Skating Club offers group lessons on Saturday mornings for different age groups, including adults. There’s something both relaxing and invigorating about gliding on ice and, like riding a bike, if you did it as a kid, it will come back after a few circuits of the rink. Public skating: $5. Hockey groups: $10. Skate rental: $5. Check for the schedule.

Everybody needs a bit of dancing in their lives. Well, here are a couple of suggestions for exploring either end of the dance spectrum.

Love to watch ballroom dancing on TV or in the movies? You too can master the moves, and maybe try out a little Latin or swing for variety. Ballroom Dance M.V. offers lessons and dancing every Sunday from 6 to 9 pm at the Barn, Bowl and Bistro in Oak Bluffs. The lessons start at 7, but if you’re a beginner, show up a bit earlier so you can catch up by learning the basics. You can attend solo or as a couple and, at just $5 for an evening of entertainment, it’s one of the best deals around.

Feeling a bit more adventurous? Check out the new burlesque class at Spindrift Studios in Edgartown. It’s not just a workout, it’s an opportunity to let your inner Gypsy out. Start off with warm-ups, stretching, core and booty work, then lose your inhibitions and bump and grind your way through a cardio workout. You don’t need to don sweats and sneaks for this one — instructor Sophie Hiller encourages dressing up, and, if you can handle it, heels for authenticity. Expect props like chairs, gloves, and boas to make an appearance. No dance experience necessary, and you can choose your own pace. In other words, anyone can do it. Every Tuesday at 6:30 pm. Must be 18 or older to participate. Drop-in burlesque is $20, or $80 for a five-card class. For more information, visit

Looking for a considerably less strenuous way to move? Try out tai chi or Chi Kung. Both involve slow, gentle movements, so they’re are suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

Every Thursday, people gather at the Oak Bluffs library for group tai chi following a video that is switched up regularly. As a bonus, there’s herbal tea available. Thursdays, 10:30 am to 11:30 am, free.

On Mondays at the West Tisbury library, massage therapist and yoga teacher Kanta Lipsky leads a series of workshops called “Balance with Chi Kung, Yoga and Breath.” As described on the library website: “We will explore ways to strengthen our connection to the earth and increase our bodies’ ability to maintain good balance.” Chi Kung (alternatively called Qigong, qi gong or chi gung) is traditionally viewed as a practice to cultivate and balance chi, or life energy. The system combines body posture, movement, breathing, and meditation, and is suitable for all. Mondays from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm. Free.

If you want to use your spare time productively, why not try knitting? Vineyard Knitworks hosts a drop-in group every Tuesday night for knitters and crocheters, or those who would like to learn. Bring an ongoing project, or come with questions and get help from the pros. Beginners are welcome. Every Tuesday from 4 pm to 6 pm. Free.

On Monday afternoons from 1 to 3 pm, Rebecca Gilbert from the Native Earth Teaching Farm welcomes knitters to Pathways in Chilmark. It’s open to all ages, and offers free instruction. You might end up making a sweater or just a really long scarf, but no matter, both groups offer a great opportunity for socializing, fun, and lots of laughs.

There’s even a new activity for those who live on Chappy. Artist Elizabeth Whelan is hosting a free evening of noninstructional drawing and painting, every other other Thursday from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. Ms. Whelan will set up two still life arrangements and invite anyone interested to stretch their creative muscles. You can sketch, paint, or chose your own medium. Bring your own supplies, and drop in at any time during the three-hour session. You can also just come and hang out, chat, and enjoy a roaring fire, coffee, tea, and snacks. A great chance for Chappy neighbors to get together and catch up over the long winter months. The next session will be on Jan. 11.

This article by Gwyn McAllister originally appeared on