Studio Zahiya Dancer Profile: Michele Dohse

April 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Michele dancing with Bala!

Name: Michele Dohse

Profession: Legal Assistant

Volunteer Work: RiverLink, Carolina Mountain Club, Asheville Middle School media center, Asheville City Schools Foundation tutor program

Family: Michele and her husband, Till, have 3 children: daughters Sonja, 23, and Katja, 20, (both dancers) and son Sasha, 17 (who is more into climbing).

Michele Dohse met her husband of 26 years, Till, dancing.

They first clicked at the International Folk Dance group that met on the N.C. State University campus in the 1970’s when Michele was in high school. The duo advanced to more challenging classes, including a series of Hungarian Dance workshops in Quebec. After they survived Hungarian dancing together, they decided it was time to get married.

“We told each other it was never going to get any worse than that, and strangely enough, we were right,” Michele said.

In her 35-year exploration of clogging, jigue (French-Canadian step dancing), swing, contra, belly and bhangra, dancing has enriched Michele’s life in many unexpected ways. She credits the upper body isolations of belly dance with curing her incipient carpal tunnel syndrome.

Belly dancing also came along at just the right moment when her daughters were teenagers. “It provided them with a positive body image and circle of caring women friends at a vulnerable time,” she said. Belly dancing was also a way for them to connect with their mother, as they encouraged Michelle to return to a style of dance that she had last experimented with at age 19.

The main dance genre she practices with Lisa Zahiya is bhangra, a folk dance that originated in the Punjab region of India. Bhangra has grown worldwide popularity in recent years, especially when mixed with hip hop in dance clubs.

“With bhangra I feel I’ve come full circle back to the folk dance I loved in my teens and twenties,” Michele said. “There is something exuberantly earthy about it, and the music and its rhythms are irresistible. It blends a village festival feel with an urban party groove, and all kinds of interesting and exciting things happen at that border.”

“I like the energy and pacing of Lisa’s classes,” Michele continued. “She’s always changing it up, mixing hip-hop, bhangra, and Bollywood, and varying the pace. Lisa does a great job of breaking down complex moves into more ‘digestible’ pieces and also stresses each dancer do what feels right for her or him. We also learn tidbits about other cultures and the context of the dance.”

For about a year, Michele danced with Lisa’s bhangra & Bollywood troupe Bala!, which performs at festivals and club events. “The energy of bhangra is so infectious there is an instant connection with the audience,” she said. It was a great feeling to be part of a very close-knit group.” She stresses to anyone considering joining a performance troupe that it requires a commitment of time, energy and money and should not be undertaken lightly. The troupe members are depending on your participation.

The dance forms that Michele concentrates on may change, fade from her life, or circle back and return later. But the bonds that she has created in class, whether they be with her family, troupe members or an array of talented dance teachers, will remain.

written by Megan Riley,

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Studio Zahiya Dancer Profile: Jen Ferre

April 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Jen on stage at the Moulin Rouge Benefit

Profession: Grant program administrator

Hobbies/Interests: Gardening, cooking, preserving food, off-the-wall movies

Family: Married to Brett Spivey for 14 years. Their baby is Mellow, a pit bull mix.

Dance changed Jen Ferre’s life.

“When I started Lisa’s classes about two years ago, I was overweight, approaching 40, and my self-esteem was diminishing,” Jen said. “Dance not only helped me lose weight, but it was also the spark that ignited a whole array of life changes. Since I started dancing again, I am happier, healthier and heartier than I have ever been in my life.”

Jen dances in Lisa Zahiya’s bhangra and Bollywood troupe, Bala!, and has taken Lisa’s classes since 2009.

“I have so much fun in every class,” Jen 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!” Jen added. Lisa entertains the class with anecdotes from her life, and her internal monologues periodically spill from her head to her mouth. She’s not afraid to laugh at herself – and that is contagious to the dancers, standing in front of the mirror watching their reflections move up and down to high-energy Indian music. Her students appreciate reminders not to take themselves too seriously.

Jen also values the camaraderie with the other dance students and the interaction with the audience.

Jen as a young dancer!

“The performance troupe has brought me to the next level in my dance journey,” Jen said. “I feel that there is no better way to celebrate dance than to share it with others. That’s the part of being in the troupe that I love the most. Yes, it’s fun to wear pretty costumes and put on jewelry and make-up, but it’s great to see other people enjoying the performances so much. It takes a lot of work and time, but it’s very rewarding.”

Dancing with Lisa also brings back Jen’s fond childhood memories, a time when dance was a key part of her life. Her first ballet recital was at age three.

“I’ve rediscovered the reasons why I love dance in the first place—it’s fun, challenging, a way to express myself and it’s in my blood,” she said. “I got back into dancing thinking it would be a great way to help lose some weight. The weight is gone now, but I’ll keep dancing!”

written by Megan Riley,

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All kinds of dancing….

March 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Whew! The last two weeks have brought two out of town trips to teach dance workshops. While I am tired and excited to sleep at home, it is so inspiring to see different bellydance communities developing.

Zafira Studios in Pittsburgh

The first weekend of March took me to Pittsburg, PA – for a day of workshops and a show sponsored by dancers Janim and Katia.  Not only was I excited to see Pittsburgh and to teach, Katia was a long time student of mine here in Asheville and a very good friend, so I got to visit with her and meet the newest member of her family, baby Olympia.  Bellydance allows me to have friends all over the country and world and it allows me time to spend with them, to see their cities and homes – what a gift!

Janim and Katia rented the beautiful Zafira Studios, which was inspiring and made me feel like I was in the movie Flashdance (ummm, what could be better??)…the studio is on the second floor – is spacious and has huge beautiful windows! Janim and Katia brought in a great group of dancers who were open and excited learners.  We spent two hours doing

Katia and baby Olypia

shimmies and then two hours learning a drum solo. (phew)….the dancers were great! After a little rest, Janim and Katia threw a great show at a really cool venue in the back of a restaurant.  With low seats and Middle Eastern decor, the show had great atmosphere.  I was impressed with the quality of dancing at the show – so many great dancers who were all different! I did a recorded music set and then danced with Ishtar, a fun Middle Eastern band based in Pittsburgh.  They were awesome and played along with me (err, I believe I did the moonwalk during my drum solo.)

Sunday was great – I got to sight see in the snow in Pittsburgh (snow-March!). We shopped in some ethnic markets (something I sorely miss from living in a larger city), saw the Carnegie library and walked around in the snow….it was great!

Maria Palacio & Lisa in Columbia SC

The next week brought Columbia SC and really different weather (80 degrees and sunny) which made me excited for spring and summer here in Asheville.

Maria Palacio, a multi-talented bellydancer sponsored me and I got to teach some of my favorite topics – 4 hours of Turkish, 2 hours of Bhangra and 2 hours of Working with Music.  I was sore after the weekend, but was again inspired by the fun and open dancers I found here.  All the dancers were open to the variety and different music and moves that Turkish bellydance brought and jumped (literally) right into Bhangra!

Maria provided a great studio – where they also taught Gyrotonics – it made me feel like we were right in the middle of Soho.  She also organized a really fun hafla which included all kinds of fun and great performances, including a beautiful veil solo by the host – she was so great I forgot to put on my zills for my piece!  Check out the other teachers that Maria is bringing in this year – she has some great plans in the works!


Taking a break from dancing at Burton Street

In between travels I’ve been attempting to rest but also teaching studio classes as well as my LEAF in Schools and Streets Community Classes.  The children I am working with, from 1st-8th grade, are  amazing and great at grounding me and teaching me lessons.  We’re working on some great pieces to perform at this year’s festivals – can’t wait!

The end of March brings a workshop in Ohio, a residency in a local high school and preparing for the Asheville Bellydance Festival – thank goodness for that extra daylight!



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Go, go, go!

February 27, 2011 1 comment

Wow! Tuesday is March 1st.  Here is Asheville the forecast is for 70 degrees today and I’m seeing forsythia around my neighborhood.

2011 has been quite a whirlwind for me so far, I’ve been to France, choreographed a large show for a charity gala here in Asheville and coordinated two dance parties!  I wrote about lessons learned during my trip to France in my February Newsletter. It was quite an adventure – I returned with new-found respect for the universal connection that dance allows us (and a few bottles of wine!)

Bala! at the Caring for Children Gala. Picture by Ryan Baumgarner

The Charity Gala was a Bollywood themed gala show for Caring for Children.  It was by far the fanciest backdrop and stage I’ve ever had the pleasure of dancing on (and in front of)…I was lucky enough to work with three primary dancers, Lara Lustig, Jen Amann and Christine Garvin as well as the entire Bala! Bhangra Troupe and The River Guerguerian Project.  I SO enjoyed being able to work on large-scale choreography and to work with live musicians – I’m going to try to work on more of that in my future.

You can read a great article about the gala here, written by Megan Riley and there is a slide show of pictures by Ryan Bumgarner.

While all of this was amazing and wonderful, I am struggling, or, err, learning to deal with a busy schedule and still feel healthy productive.  Got any tips for me?

March will bring a beautiful spring and also lots of travel…. this upcoming weekend I am off to Pittsburgh to teach, then to Columbia, SC and Toledo, OH.  I am also doing lots of planning for the upcoming Asheville Bellydance Festival and Bellydance Retreat with Ava Fleming.

What will spring bring you?

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Goals, goals, goals…

January 19, 2011 Leave a comment

In my recent, end of the year email newsletter – I shared some good news.  It was that I had met a BHAG (oh yes, I did go to business school in a former life) for my business, and that I was setting another large goal for 2011 – to practice dance every day.

Well, 18 days later, so far so good.  In fact, I’ve been tracking my progress on a spreadsheet (see, business geek rears her head once again) and a blog devoted expressly to that subject.

A few days ago I was walking down the street, passed the local (and amazingly addictive) Lululemon Store.  For those of you who don’t know about Lululemon, they make amazing and fashionable workout clothes AND have a strong focus on community and personal development.  As I walked by the store, I noticed that on the window there was a personal goal for each of the sales associates. The part that struck me was that each goal had a date associated with it.  Not just, I will learn how to moonwalk (just an example)…but, I will learn how to moonwalk by January 19, 2011 (if you don’t know how, youtube it -it’s worth it.

So, I was inspired to set a few more goals for 2011 with associated dates.  And……here they are:

I figure there is no way to keep myself more accountable then to lay them out for you, the internet and the universe…..
I will practice every day in 2011.

I will have 5 mentoring students consistently by and after March 15th 2011.

I will have full evening classes every week in Spring, Fall and Winter of 2011.

I will book 6 additional dance workshops in 2011 by August 1, 2011.

I will attend a JTE1 in 2011.

I will Buy a custom costume before the end of the year.

I will be invited to be in a DVD by September 1, 2011

I’ve got a few more that I’m going to keep to myself for the moment. So, what are your goals for 2011 and when will you accomplish them…

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Join me?

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment

So, I’ve been inspired by the number of people who want to join me for 365 days of practicing…

Want to hop on board? Check out the new blog I started:

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Oh S**t! Did I say that outloud? or What is practice?

December 8, 2010 5 comments

umm what did I say I was going to do? pic by Blend Photography

ummmmmm, so a few days ago, I had just achieved a business goal I had set for myself and was ruminating on goals, the new year and where I’d like to see myself grow.

All good things.

Simultaneously, it was time for my monthly newsletter.  Full of fun tidbits of my dance practice and business — and I decided to add an article.  And I set a set a big ol’ dance goal for myself.  So I told everyone about it. And I sent it. And I posted it on the internet.

You can read the article here.

Umm, frack.  I just told the whole world I was going to practice everyday next year. What the hell, Lisa? There are times this year I went weeks without practicing.  I mean sure I was teaching and performing, but no dedicated time to my own dance practice.

So, with mild panic, I embrace this goal…I want to grow, I want to change, I want to always be a better dancer.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, I am going to track it all right here.

So time to set some rules – what is practice? How long does it have to be? Does listening to music count?

Here’s what I know:

It has to be at least 30 minutes. It  might be 10 minutes in the morning, 10 before class and 10 before bed – but I will practice at least 30 minutes a day. every day. next year.

Practice has to be about my dancing. Not choreographing for private students, not making a class plan….

I commit to (30×365) 10,950 minutes of practicing my art for myself.

But, I’m not sure about the other goals – what actually constitutes practice?

What do you think? How do you structure your practice?

Open to ideas as I start myself on this journey….hey, maybe I’ll even start early.

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Summer into fall – travel, joy and lessons

September 13, 2010 1 comment

When summer turns into fall I often start thinking about what I’ll do for my birthday ritual. For the last 5 or so years on (or around) November 6, I create a ritual that lays out goals, dreams and aspirations for the next year.

The last BIG (gulp) BIRTHDAY I hit was 30.  This morning I turned back in my journals to that year and reviewed my goals for that year.  To my amazement, almost all of them I had fulfilled.  However, there was one goal that still deserves my attention: slowing down.  Synchronicity has reared its guiding head and that theme has been coming up a lot in the past few weeks.

The biggest struggle for me has been that I feel like I am having these amazing, wonderful experiences…but, the next gig, seminar, or class comes so soon that I haven’t had the time to proccess the event, or more importantly express my gratitude that it happens.

So, as a step to resolve that…today I want to share a couple of amazing events/happenings from my summer and I am grateful for….so, what did you do this summer??

Texas! Teaching with Ava Fleming

June – Austin Bellydance Convention – Austin, TX

In June I was lucky enough to travel deep into the heart of Texas for an amazing (and amazingly organized) bellydance convention hosted by Stacey Lizette.

What I was grateful for:

Reconnection – One of my favorite things about my bellydance community is the beauty of having friends all over the country!  I had originally met Stacey, and the rest of her troupe, Sabaya, at a weeklong with the amazing Aziza two years ago.  The entire weekend was full of reconnection with amazing, powerful women (an oft and apt description for most bellydancers I know.)  My favorite part of the weekend was the first night I was there.  I spent the evening practicing, hanging out and talking with Yasmin – a kindred spirit in dance and life.

July – My New Home

In July, I didn’t travel much but I made a BIG change… I moved out of my home for the last several years (the back of my dance studio), and moved into a beautiful home with my boyfriend, Ian, and our housemate Jeremy.  My gratitude here is for stability. I have so much change in my life, so often, having a beautiful home which offers a respite from my often chaotic life is amazing.  And, being able to make the next step (so to speak) with Ian has been wonderful.  Living with him has offered me a lot of laughter, comfort, love and a lot more time to put down what I am doing and ride my bike.  I am so thankful for this.

August – Bellypalooza, Baltimore MD

Being silly at Bellypalooza!

Every summer for the past 4 years, I have taught and performed at this fantastic bellydance festival in Baltimore, put on my teacher, Piper, and her bellydancing family, the Daughters of Rhea. This year was really extra fun as my friends from Portland, Claudia and Sedona of Bellydance Soulfire were there to teach as well.  Every year I am there I am reminded that I am grateful for lineage and history.  Piper’s mom, Rhea, is a legend of bellydance and one of the original members of Jamila Salimpour’s Bala Anat.  To be at an event where she is, and to feel and recognize the movements, theory and dance that was passed to directly from her to Piper to me is extraordinary.  Then, to be able to teach there…to pass along knowledge to new students – what a gift.

August – Mira Betz Intensive, Raleigh NC

I am always grateful to be a student. After a gig canceled and a spot opened up in this workshop, I made a last minute decision to drive to Raleigh and spend the weekend learning from the venerable Mira Betz.  There is a saying that “the medicine finds the sickness”…and this weekend was the medicine for what I had been feeling I needed in my dance life.  Mira is an amazing  teacher, dancer and person …. and I am grateful for a  weekend to study.  This is a good reminder for me to seek out learning opportunities as often as I can….

Ahhhh! Better already…. this chance to re-live my summer has me sitting here smiling in my seat.  Maybe it’s not about slowing down, I can’t imagine not doing all the things that life is offering to me right now.  It seems to be about taking time though, even a minute, to say thank you….so thank you universe for this summer…here’s to an amazing fall!

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Publicly Declaring a Truce

August 16, 2010 9 comments

This seems awfully personal, but today I am going to use this brand new-spankin’ blog to declare a truce.  A truce with my body.

While I can say, definitively, that I do love my body for what it can do – most of all for allowing me to dance, I can not definitively say that I always love the way my body looks or treat it with love.

So what’s a truce? According to good ol’ it is:


/trus/ [troos] –noun

1. a suspension of hostilities for a specified period of time by mutual agreement of the warring parties; cease-fire; armistice.
2. an agreement or treaty establishing this.
3. a temporary respite, as from trouble or pain.
Alrighty. So I’m going with definition #1.  First off, I see that it is a “specified period of time.”  I’m going to go with 30 days.  Often when trying new things I give myself a “30 day free trial.”  Essentially a time to  try something on  – but not feel pressured that it is going to last forever.
So, what am I going to do for 30 days?  Well apparently I will suspend hostilities, hold a cease fire, and declare an armistice.
Therefore, for the next 30 days I will:
-Not say anything negative about my body. Period.  So no comments about what I’d like to get smaller, what I’d want to be bigger – who else I’d rather look like, etc. (this list can go on and on and on)
Instead, I will declare my love for my body often and loudly (well maybe not publicly and loudly)In fact, I’ll start right now….these are a few of the things I love about how my body looks: I’ve gotta start with the booty since we’ve had a very personal love/hate relationship.  But I love it, I love how it generates conversation, comments and looks.  I also love my eyes. But most of all, I love my heart, for pumping blood through me, for allowing me to live…and allowing me to love.
-NO getting mad at my body for not being able to do something.  I preach this all the time to my students and need to heed my own advice.  No frustration at not being able to lift a certain weight, do a certain move etc.
Instead, I will celebrate my accomplishments. Right here on this blog.  I’ll tell people about it.  I will feel proud of myself and encourage myself to go farther.  So again, let’s not hesitate – here is something I am proud of – this morning I rode my bike to downtown Asheville and back from my house.  I climbed Chicken Hill.  yay me!
-NO restriction of food.  I have lived a long life of dieting.  Yesterday I realized I went on my first diet at 13.  This means I am coming up on 20 years of restricting food to myself in some way or another.  And then rebelling by eating crap.  So no, this does not mean 30 days of cheetos and coke (ummm, gross).
Instead, I will fuel myself.  In our new truce my body and I are going to develop a strong love for one another.  I will treat it like all the other things I love.  I will give it fresh amazing food that will allow it to prosper, to allow us to prosper together.  And if my new roommate, who is a pastry chef brings home a homemade pear, peach chocolate tarte, yes I will eat a piece.
Finally, I will make a daily declaration of peace and love.  I will put my daisy in the barrel of my self hatred gun.
I love you body.
Categories: body image

So why am I doing this?

August 9, 2010 2 comments

Last night I woke up, sat straight up in bed and began to worry.  It was 3:59 am.  The thoughts began – what am I doing? I’ve just abandoned my last vestiges of corporate work to dive fully into a career as a dance teacher, performer, and studio owner.  My thoughts began to spiral – money, future, expectation, and money again, and more money…. Sleep finally found me again after 5.

I woke up, had some coffee (well, a lot of coffee) and felt peaceful.  I know I am on the right path.  I know it deeply and strongly – I have conviction.  However, I sat down today to address those voices, and to be clear as to why I am devoting my life to dance – not just doing it, but also choosing to depend on it for my well-being and my income.

So what did I come up with?

Joy: Joy, happiness, pleasure, bliss.  Whatever you want to call it, I believe it can change the world.  Do whatever makes you happiest and see how not only you change, but how the world around you changes.  For me, to provide classes where we can be happy – to jump around, to be goofy and laugh is a calling.  I don’t think any of my students would be shy in telling you that I am a little goofy – and I think smiling never hurt anyone – just the opposite, in fact.

Self Fulfillment: I’ve always said that if I could dance, I don’t need to talk.  And I sure can talk. Dance feeds me. I use it to feel better, to work things out and as a form a release.  I believe that by allowing myself to dance, every day, I am a better person.  I also love to perform – it fulfills something in me.  At times, when people pay me to do it, I feel like the luckiest person in the world.

To Be Fair: Because whatever other jobs I have done in my life, no matter how lucrative, my heart wasn’t in it.  And I don’t think that’s fair.  Of course, at times, we have to work because we need money, or benefits, or security.  But I had an option, and doing this is the thing my heart is in.  It is the thing that I am willing to put it all on the line for, the things that no matter how many times I wake up late at night, I’ll keep doing.

And finally, I am doing this because my heart tells me to do it.

So why do you dance?

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