Spice Raqs Performance Class Goes "Gangnam Style"

By Leilah Reese

After turning the ripe old age of 30 back in December 2010, I decided to throw caution to the wind and pick up dance again. No, my body wasn’t as supple as it used to be in my teen years, but who doesn’t like a challenge? So I searched high and low, near and far (okay, not really) for a way to get back into the swing of things without filing for bankruptcy and having to worry about being in a dance class with professionals who take life too seriously. That’s when I first discovered Joy of Motion Dance Center and their Studio to Stage Performance Class Series, where you spend 10 to 12 weeks learning choreography and at the end perform in front of adoring fans (mostly family and close friends). Who doesn’t love jumping on stage in front of a bunch of strangers after not stepping foot in a dance studio for nearly a decade? Challenge accepted!

Since I had this sudden fearlessness and “carpe diem” attitude, I decided to go a bit further and take on a new challenge: belly dance. My first encounter with Yillah Natalia and the effortless way she would bust into a walking shimmy happened back in January of this year. I was a bit timid, because honestly, I’ve never moved my hips more than what was required of me in a basic stride down the pavement. Plus belly dance seemed “exotic” to someone whose dance foundation, once upon a time, was ballet. You don’t see too much hip swiveling and shimmying in an average ballet class let alone having your midsection exposed. But like I said, 30, in my mind, was the new 20 and taking on dance techniques that were not familiar to my previous dance experiences excited me.

After that first Spice Raqs Studio to Stage class, I was hooked. I did another the following session and was convinced I would continue on under Yillah’s tutelage for the rest of my life. Seriously! Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, as this Fall’s Studio to Stage Performance class is her last. Totally floored by the fact that I would no longer be able to take class with Yillah, I signed up with a bit of sadness in my heart. That feeling quickly disappeared when I discovered the song we were going to dance to: “Gangnam Style” by Psy. We’ve all heard it, seen the viral video and even attempted to do his signature “pony” move a time or two, so imagine belly dance set to that infectious tune. You can’t, can you? Which is all the more reason for you to camel walk down to The Jack Guidone Theater December 15 and 16 to see for yourself. I promise you won’t be disappointed (shameless plug).

The energy of “Gangnam Style” paired with the sassiness of Spice Raqs has made this Studio to Stage experience one of my most memorable ones to date. Yillah has a way of making even the meekest of students feel like she can own any stage she steps on. My confidence is instantly boosted when I walk into the “wood” Studio at JOMDC Atlas on Wednesday nights, even on days when I’d rather be curled up on the couch with a blanket wrapped around me blankly staring at the television.

In just under a year, I’ve learned a completely new dance technique, and working with Yillah has made me fall in love with the art of belly dance. I can’t give her all of the credit for the fun I’ve had. Some of it goes to the new friendships I’ve forged with women who also love to do a few hair tosses and enjoy dancing for the fun of it. Joy of Motion Dance Center is a wonderful dance community that not only feeds your desire, or curiosity, to dance, but our innate need to feel like we belong to something.

Join Leilah and the ladies of Yillah’s Spice Raqs class at our upcoming Studio to Stage Fall 2012 Showcase. Tickets are on sale for Saturday, December 15, 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, December 16, 7:00 p.m. at The Jack Guidone Theater. Want to get in on the action? Register for any Studio to Stage Winter 2013 Performance Class by December 13 and save 15%.