Today we’d like to introduce you to Janelle Issis.
Hi Janelle, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
My name is Janelle Jalila Issis. I am a full-blooded Palestinian-American national touring Belly dance artist, choreographer, performer, certified Yogini, nutritionist, and CESD signed Model and Dancer.
I am best known around the world for my contagious laugh and my sultry elegance on the hit U.S. show “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 9 as the top 6th female finalist and the only classically & modern trained belly dancer ever to hit the Fox stage! Today I teach bold women like you how to encompass mental, physical, and emotional wellness through the art of dance.
The JBelly School of RAQ: community is a tribe of people from all walks of life connecting through the art of belly dance. My vision is that no matter who you are you can access my classes and begin to tap into your Goddess energy from anywhere in the world. I want you to find the confidence to face all of life’s obstacles, challenges, and joys with an open heart! Whether you want to pursue a professional career in Raqs Sharqi or want to cultivate deep joy and self-love – my classes are for you!
I started my belly dancing journey at the age of 4 by studying the art of Classical Egyptian Belly dance as the protege to “Aziza of Birmingham.” After 17 years of Tap, Jazz, Contemporary, and Musical Theater I went off to college and continued to train at the University of Alabama where I received a BA in Nutrition and in Dance Performance, learning under Cornelius Carter of Alvin Ailey! I had trained heavily in other dance styles that Raqs got left behind for a moment. It wasn’t till my junior year of college did I realize that Middle Eastern Arabic dance was the genre I felt most connected to. This is when I began creating the “JBelly” style!
Since graduating, I have had many opportunities to be grateful for. (To name a few)
– Traveled all over the United States and abroad teaching and performing with “Showstoppers on Tour” “Hollywood Dance Jamz” and on my own.
– Featured in my first international T-Mobil commercial with artist J.Balvin
– Made New York my home in 2018 and I enjoy connecting to my students of all ages and abilities at the world-famous Broadway Dance Center, Alvin Ailey Extension, NYC, and Ripley-Grier Studios.
– Choreographer to International Moroccan vocal artist Abir
– Featured in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 3 working with renowned choreographer Marguerite Derricks
– Featured on Good Morning America with Derek and Julianne Hough while working with the Tabitha and Napoleon
– Featured in the video of the hit single “YOGA” with Janelle Monae
– Gain my YTT200 HR Yoga Alliance Certification and became a teacher for Crunch Signature Gyms around New York.
– Featured recently November 5th, 2021 on the Wendy Willams TV Show for my BellydanceBURN Unlimited Virtual Class Platform. “Everybody is a Bellydance BODY!”
– Member of professional Egyptian Bellydance Company Raks Al Zahra under the direction of Natalie Nazario.
When Covid hit, we all had to pivot a bit! I saw it as a huge opportunity to create a virtual classroom so that we could continue to dance and create together while spreading joy and love! This was a dream of mine and COVID really gave me that push to just go for it! Now I am bringing the classes to YOU! Experience a class from around the globe, or in the comfort of your own home no matter your age, ability, or where you come from. I offer weekly In-Studio, Online and On-Demand classes, courses and workshops accessible for any level participant. Plus 3 Unlimited Class Platforms covering various dance goals, Weekly In-Studio Classes in New York City, Private Personalized Lessons, Gloabal Performances, and more! (Virtual & In-Person avaialblity)
Currently I am reside in NYC teaching my regular weekly classes & courses In-Studio as well as engaging with and teaching my Virtual Online JBelly Tribe. I visit the Orlando area often to perform for Sahara Entertainment Co. @sahara_entertainment_orlando under the managment of Rosanna Fontana.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
No road is smooth! Growing up in Alabama… well growing up anywhere can be bitter-sweet at times. I always danced, smiled big, laughed out loud, and wasn’t afraid to be myself. That is something I am grateful for! My parents pushed me to be the best version of myself and to trust and love who I and wanted to be. Having family 1000% support cultivates confidence and success.
In middle school when the other kids found out I belly danced the comments were brutal. I performed at international food festivals and dance festivals at an early age. The kids and some adults were openly mean…the word “Belly dance” can be misunderstood and false pretense and accusations were used an ammunition towards my art and my morals.
I was slut shamed, told I was stripper by boys, and laughed at by the girls… some told me I would never have a boyfriend or husband because they would never want to be with someone who shimmies or moves like that in public. Etc. etc. etc.!! But I had that thick skin and a strong mind. I loved dance; it brought me peace and again my families unwavering support reassured me that this dance was part of my Arab roots and heritage and nothing to be ashamed of. I did my best at that age to embrace that but also felt I needed to blend in and be “normal.” From the age of 4, I was enrolled in tap, jazz, musical theater, and ballet and kept my Belly dancing a little bit of a secret. Now at 30+ I finally shared some of my performance videos from when I was 8years old to my YouTube; in hopes to help encourage other young dancers to connect with their Arab roots or just simply enjoy Belly dance no mater what ethnic background they come from.
Growing up this way only prepared me for the “real” professional dance world. The constant NO’s, judgment, and so on. Dance is a constant audition and you have to be able to handle that with grace. I began to feel strongly towards reaching more youth with my story in hopes they would follow their dreams and trust in themselves, despite what others may think or say. If I had let those mean comments stop me from dancing, I would not be on grand stages teaching hundreds of our youth or traveling and performing for beautiful audiences around the world nor would I have built my dream job and career. There is always a bright light in times of darkness. We just have to see it, have faith, and ride the waves.
There have been many setbacks and difficult times throughout my career. I moved to LA with no job in 2013 and hustled hard to reach my goals. I moved to New York in 2018 to start completely over and hustled again even stronger. Covid hit at the peak of my career and I lost a few incredible jobs that are still canceled. I feel excited to be coming out of the Covid lockdown but also blessed to have taken that time to create something new I am incredily proud to call my own! JBelly’s School of RAQ: Bellydance L.L.C. Covid life gave me the opportunity to reach so many people all over the world I may have never met. The blessings are there but the road is always a bit bumpy!
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I specialize in personalized curated Performances and Teaching the art of Bellydance. What sets me apart from others is that I let people into my world openly. My dancers and clients see this and feel welcomed and want to return. For me, this is most important.
No matter if you are taking a class with me online or in-studio my heart, passion, and teaching skills shine through. I take great pride in my art, work ethic, and creations. I care about the students and engage with them in a unique authentic way; being 100% myself, honest, open, and joyful.
My school, JBelly’s School of RAQ: My goal is that belly dance can be accessible for everyone. It is mental, physical, and emotional wellness and I feel blessed to be able to share my art with others in hopes it will fill them with confidence, self-love, body-positive energy, and more to succeed in thier own lives.
The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
That humans need connection and movement to survive! That if the world wasn’t so “busy” people would take more time to enjoy these things.
- Affordable Pricing for All Class, Course & Workshop Offerings: Zoom, On-Demand, & In-Studio
- COVID Relief Discounted Class Pack Available
- You can dance 7 days a week with unlimited classes for just $15 with JBellyBURN Unlimited Member Virtual Platform – GlowUp Goddess Plan
- Janelle offers many Freebies on your YouTube & Instagram!
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: https://www.JanelleIssis.com
- Instagram: @jbellyburn
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JanelleIssis
- Twitter: @dance9janelle
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/JanelleIssis
- TikTok: @jbellyburn