About Annya Ishtara
Hi! I’m Annya Ishtara.
I am a qigong and belly dance instructor who helps conscious women to come more fully into their bodies so they can experience more joy, health, and awareness. Together, we work with movement, energy, and meditation using the ancient and time-tested methods of qigong, belly dance, and meditation to help women remember their sacredness and beauty. I help women discover more exciting possibilities for themselves through movement and energy.
I work with women of all ages and body types who want to feel feminine and fit, but who struggle with finding exercise that is fun and challenging, as well as feminine and expressive, and I help them feel their confidence and sensuality through belly dance so they can be more like the women they’ve always wanted to be in their career and personal life.
Annya Ishtara’s Dance and Movement Training
My path to becoming a belly dancer began as a young girl, when I knew I wanted to be a belly dancer, despite having never seen one, or even having heard Middle Eastern music. When I eventually began belly dance lessons in 1991, I was instantly hooked on the beautiful movements, vibrant music, exotic costuming, and the discovery of Middle Eastern cultures from which this dance comes. Belly dance is such a diverse, deep, and fascinating topic, that I haven’t stopped learning since!
My other dance studies began with Jazz and Ballet when I was a teenager and evolved to encompass Haitian, West African, and Cuban Orisha dances, Butoh, and Contact Improvisation, among others. I have also studied Rajasthani Gypsy dance of the Kalbelia people and Ghoomar Ladies dance in Rajasthan, India, and Turkish Roman (Gypsy) dance in Turkey.
I have a wide background in movement, energy training, and physical body studies. I have studied a variety of dance and movement forms for over 35 years, including yoga (in India and the US), and tai chi and qigong (in the US and China). I have a Qigong Instructor Certification and a Tai Chi Teacher certification from Qigong Academy. I am also a trained massage therapist, Level 2 Reiki practioner, licensed minister, and have been trained as a licensed Art of Feminine Presence® teacher. I am certified in Level 1 of Sadie Marquant’s Raqs Flow Bellydance Training Program.
A few things about my dance experience that might surprise and delight you are:
- When I first began to take dance classes in jazz and ballet as teenager, I was so uncoordinated, that dance teachers used to tell me that they didn’t think I’d ever become a dancer. Well, I proved them wrong! Now most people think I am a natural dancer and have trouble believing that there was ever a time when I couldn’t do a simple step-together-step. Because of my own difficult dance experience in the past, I know a lot about how to help women get into their bodies and really dance.
- My oldest student (so far) was 89, and my youngest student was 7. Belly dance really is for all ages! I have also taught men as well as women.
- As a belly dance soloist, I improvise 99% of my performances, meaning that I create a unique dance in the moment just for that particular experience. To see some of my improvised performances, go to my Videos page.
- Most of my early belly dance performances were to live music, as opposed to recorded music, which is now the norm in the US. Most of the bands I performed with were Middle Eastern inspired. However, I have also belly danced to a sitar band, a psychedelic klezmer band, several industrial rock/punk bands, Cuban bata drum ensembles, and I have performed with rock guitar virtuoso Eric McFadden and his trio.
About My Belly Dance Classes
I teach a blend of Turkish and American Classic style belly dance, tempered with my own eclectic touch. I draw from my training and experience as a dancer in many genres, as well as my massage and qigong training, to help dance students safely and effectively train their bodies to easily and gracefully perform the movements of belly dance.
Students develop body awareness and learn to increase strength, flexibility, and range of motion. Classes focus on technique, as well as expressive and energy aspects of dance. What sets me apart from other belly dance teachers is that I come from an internal, body centered perspective, which I blend with a visceral understanding of energy, so that women can really understand and develop tools with which to inhabit their bodies more fully. I have found that the key to better dancing is to really feel and be present with what’s going on in your body. It would be my pleasure to guide you in your discovery of your own personal version of bliss through belly dance.
“As a trained massage therapist and long-time student of movement, Annya’s stretching exercises at the beginning of class were a class in themselves.”
— Jannet Edminson, Toronto, Canada
“I have become a much better dancer over the years because of belly dance, and it has helped so much in the other kinds of dance that I study. Because of Annya’s gentle encouragement, I have been in a few performances, which is something I was certain I would NEVER do, but it has been such a huge accomplishment for me!”
— Emily Schumacher, Arroyo Seco, NM