Dance is for everyone. That is the message of Studio Zahiya, which recently moved to North Lexington Avenue in downtown Asheville. The studio will have a grand opening celebration Saturday, September 17.
"Everyone can get positive benefits from dance," said Lisa Zahiya, the owner of the studio. She has taught bellydance, Bollywood and hip hop in Asheville since 2008, and recently expanded her business from a small space on Carolina Lane. "Those benefits can be everything from, at the base level, the endorphins that you get from moving, to the positive feeling you have about your body and self."
Zahiya creates a safe, non-competitive atmosphere where students feel comfortable moving among others. They take the positive energy they feel at the studio and approach the rest of their lives more joyfully. "Having a joyful experience can change your day, and then change your life," Zahiya said.
Her philosophy is that dance evolves both self and community. Her students are encouraged after they first try something new, and then watch themselves transform, both physically and emotionally. That confidence boost transfers to the rest of their lives, and the students are motivated to try other life goals. "When their friends see that, they want to follow their lead," Zahiya said.
The instructors of Studio Zahiya will offer free classes at the grand opening at the new studio at 90 1/2 N. Lexington Ave. on September 17. In addition to touring the renovated 100-year old building, which has large windows overlooking Lexington Avenue, visitors are welcome to drop in on 30-minute sessions of yoga, pilates, and bhangra, a high-energy dance that originated in India.
The grand opening will culminate that evening at The Grove House, where dance students and guest professional bellydancers will perform.
Zahiya's team of teachers include: Mahsati Janan, Middle Eastern dance instructor; Alexis Miller, pilates instructor; Alex Moody, yoga instructor; Sparrow, bellydance instructor; and Leanna Joyner, Groove instructor. Groove is a group fitness class that draws on several dance styles to cater to a variety of body types and experience levels.
Zahiya tailors hip hop, belly and Indian dance classes to match the level of her students, so both the experienced and the beginner can benefit. Her students praise her teaching skills just as much as her dancing, performing and choreographing abilities.
Dance has helped her students through relationship hardships, life changes and self-image issues. It has shaped their bodies, increased their creativity, and improved their strength, posture and rhythm.
Meghan O'Malley Doubraski, a therapist and mom of 2-year old, said she can't function properly without a minimum of an hour of dance each week. “When I’m dancing I feel at most home in my body and out of my head, which is very hard for me in my day-to-day activities,” Doubraski said. “It’s me expressing myself for me, and that translates to everyone else because I get joyful. I can be a good mom, a good therapist, a good partner, and still take that time for myself."
Doubraski especially appreciates Zahiya's teaching talent. “She’s very encouraging,” Doubraski said. “Lisa obviously wants you to be good at dance. She doesn’t want to stay the expert. There’s something about someone taking a special interest in you. It’s an empowering atmosphere.”
Jen Ferre of Oakley has taken bhangra classes from Zahiya for two years. “I have so much fun in every class,” Ferre said. “Lisa is very supportive in her teaching. She creates an open and welcoming environment with her joyful spirit and kind heart. She makes me feel good about myself, and I always leave class feeling like I accomplished something important. Plus she's just so funny!"
In addition to operating the studio, Zahiya serves as a Resident Artist with the Lake Eden Arts Festival, working with first to eighth grade students in public housing, and is a Guest Dance Instructor at the Buncombe County School System. She has taught at two eating disorder recovery centers, and instructs at the Swannanoa Correctional Facility for Women. Zahiya is an alumni of the University of Maryland dance team.
The studio's open house is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 90 1/2 N. Lexington Ave. The Gala Dance Showcase starts at 7:30 p.m. at Scandals nightclub at 11 Grove Street. Admission to the showcase is $10. For more information about the grand opening, see http://www.lisazahiya.com and to view class schedules see http://studiozahiya.wordpress.com/