Smithtown Ninja Academy owner Kathryn Gawrych says ninja-style classes offer a way to build students' confidence when they complete a difficult course. Credit: Randee Daddona

Unicycle lessons for preschoolers, parties and events with Mirabel or Isabela from “Encanto,” and a new Ninja Academy are some of the additions for families launching on Long Island this spring.

“It’s the new hottest movie and they know all the songs,” says Melissa Meris, 38, a swim instructor from East Meadow who booked an “Encanto”-themed party for her daughter Lotte who turns 3 in May.

Here are the details on some of the season’s newest opportunities:

Learn to unicycle

Just Have Fun at Kiddie Academy of Bethpage uses a training wheel system to teach kids as young as 2 to ride a unicycle. “It’s all about balance and fitness,” says Just Have Fun co-owner Adam Cohen. Instruction will occur on a choice of 14 unicycles — some as low as 12 inches. The open play-style session also will offer activities such as a slack line, obstacle course and coffee-can-with-strings-style stilts.

Demonstrating his technique, co-owner Adam Cohen, of Just Have Fun...

Demonstrating his technique, co-owner Adam Cohen, of Just Have Fun at Kiddie Academy, uses a training wheel system to teach kids like Cole Ferrantello, 4, of Cold Spring Harbor, to ride a unicycle. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

“The parents can ride unicycles as well. It’s going to be a fun time for everyone,” Cohen says. The sessions are geared to ages 2 to 5, but an older sibling may also attend, he says.

Sessions are from 10 a.m. to noon every Sunday and cost $20 per person for one hour and $30 per person for two hours. Cohen will soon start to offer 10-week sessions, birthday parties and parent-and-me classes, he says. Advance registration is preferred by calling 516-754-5855. Kiddie Academy is at 45 Seaman Ave., Bethpage; Just Have Fun can be found at

Go to ninja academy

The Freeport Ninja Academy opened in January 2020 and owner Kathryn Gawrych opened a second location in Nesconset called the Smithtown Ninja Academy in February. “It’s an American Ninja Warrior training facility,” Gawrych says. “We’re a teaching academy starting at 5 to 14 years old.” The academy will also offer lessons to ages 15 to adult. The academy is run similarly to a gymnastic or dance school — multiweek sessions run throughout the year. “We’re trying to build the sport of ninja, and the way to do that is to get the youth involved,” she says.

Michael Bellion coaches Ryan Lupia, 5, of Smithtown at the...

Michael Bellion coaches Ryan Lupia, 5, of Smithtown at the "Lach for Distance" obstacle course at Smithtown Ninja Academy in Nesconset. Credit: Randee Daddona

Classes are progressive, and participants learn proper ways to fall, land and jump. Each structured week adds new obstacles such as the famed Warped Wall, which requires competitors to run up a curved wall and grab the top, or the Salmon Ladder, which requires players to use a metal bar to propel themselves up a vertical ladder. “Ninja is an individual sport — you versus the obstacle,” Gawrych says.

The next 10-week session begins April 2 and costs $400. The academy is at 62 Lake Ave., Suite D, Nesconset. 631-228-3533, smithtownninja.

Encanto Encounters

Royal Princess Prep Party Company has just added Mirabel Madrigal, the star of “Encanto,” to its lineup of character offerings and has already booked two dozen birthday parties, says owner Kelsey Edquist. Mirabel is the protagonist of the hit 2021 Disney animated film, the only person in her magical family who doesn’t have any powers. Alanna Henriquez, 29, of Brentwood, plays Mirabel for Royal Princess Prep. She sings hits including “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” and “Waiting on a Miracle” and dances, hosts a meet-and-greet, does interactive story time and takes picture with the attendees, Edquist says.

Alanna Henriquez, of Brentwood, plays Mirabel for birthday parties offered...

Alanna Henriquez, of Brentwood, plays Mirabel for birthday parties offered by Royal Princess Prep Party Company. Credit: Royal Princess Prep Party Company

Mirabel’s dress is custom made to mirror the movie’s, complete with 3D butterflies and embroidery. Mirabel speaks English and Spanish, Edquist says. And she’s well-versed in the storyline and Mirabel’s mannerisms, so she’s prepared for question and answer sessions. “The children have watched this movie 1,000 times, so I have to watch it 1,000 times so I know all the answers,” Henriquez says.

Royal Princess Prep has also added the characters of Isabela and Luisa, Mirabel’s sisters. A single character party is $250 and a two-character party is $450.

The company is offering an event open to the public featuring all three "Encanto" sisters on April 24 at Plattduetsche Park in Franklin Square. Tickets start at $39.95. For more information, call 516-639-3939 or visit

Baby Ballet Long Island is also offering a dance lesson to “Encanto” inspired dances and music for ages 2 to 5, combined with an ”Encanto”-inspired craft. The March 29 session is sold out, says Antonella Antonacci, owner of Once Upon A Treetop in Plainview, where classes take place. Due to the popularity, two more sessions have been added on April 4; 11:45 a.m. for ages 2 and 3 and 12:45 p.m. for ages 3 to 5. Classes are $40 for 45 minutes. Check the Once Upon a Treetop website at for upcoming additional "Encanto" events.

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