Swinging their hips in rhythm with the deep, ringing tones of the hand drums, belly dancers in brilliantly bedazzled costumes glide across the stage, striking their finger cymbals and commanding attention. Then a solo performer contorts like a cobra as she mesmerizes crowds with her hypotonic movements. This dreamy dance choreography has been captivating audiences for 20 years in Grapevine at the annual Yaa Halla Y’all - A Gathering of the Stars in Texas, presented by Isis’ Studios and Academy of Performing Arts.
Yaa Halla Y’all invites you to four days of dance and music performances by international stars, aspiring new dancers and musicians at one of the largest Middle Eastern dance events in the Southwest. Performances will be held at the Palace Theatre Thursday, July 22 through Sunday, July 25.
There are several competitions during the four-day event, with winners earning trophies, cash prizes and a feature article in the magazine Belly Dance Chronicles.
Additionally, dance and music seminars will be offered at the Grapevine Convention Center. The Grand Bazaar Shopping Experience will open daily at Noon at the Palace Arts Center where shoppers may browse jewelry, scarves, costumes and much more.
Who is Isis?
The dancer behind Yaa Halla Y’all and Isis’ Studios and Academy of Performing Arts is the energetic and vibrant red-headed dancer known as Isis. In addition to organizing Yaa Halla Y’all and running a studio, Isis is a teacher, choreographer, costume designer, magazine publisher and more.
Choosing to keep her true name hidden, Isis said that her stage name was given to her by an Egyptian and refers to the Egyptian goddess Isis who is the protector of children.
“Many dancers throughout history have gone by their stage names, and Isis is my stage name,” she said. “Some dancers feel like they can’t dance when they go by their legal, birth names. But when they go by a stage name, they become someone else. They are suddenly able to perform and dance.”
Isis said she believes she truly personifies the goddess Isis because she is a guide and mentor to students along their dance journey.
“I tell my dancers performance is not about winning,” she said. “Get better for yourself. Upgrade your feelings about yourself, your skills.”
Origins of Yaa Halla Y’all
Isis began the Yaa Halla Y’all event as a way to bring a variety of music and dance instructors and performers to one location. The studio was not big enough to house all that talent, so seminars and performances moved to the Grapevine Convention Center and Palace Theatre.
In its twentieth year, Isis said that Yaa Halla Y’all reflects the growth of dancers and competition winners because many have gone on to travel and teach worldwide.
“It’s exciting for me to watch all of my students learn from a variety of instructors in classes during this event,” Isis said. “They are getting to learn from top notch instructors at the seminars, and our performances are great!”
The Journey to Becoming Isis
Isis’ journey started when she was looking for a class to help her keep fit, and belly dance was the only class available. She soon fell in love with Middle Eastern dance and moved into a new career path.
“My first seminar with Bert Balladine, and I appreciated his positive attitude, his joy in teaching and his performance,” she said. “I continued to study with top dancers from around the world, and I am still dancing over 40 years later.”
Isis has been presented the Life Time Achievement Award from both the belly dancer magazine Zaghareet! and the Belly Dancer of the Universe® competition. Additionally, she was a feature dancer at Kosta’s Café (formerly Kosta’s Greek Restaurant) on Bachman Lake in Dallas for 11 years, Byblo’s Mediterranean Restaurant in Fort Worth, Greek Isles Grille and Tavern in Plano for New Years, and at The Mansion with the Gus Vali Orchestra for Mardi Gras. She and her dancers have been featured at Scarborough Faire since it opened in 1981.
“I try to teach dancers to focus on their dance as well as their entertainment skills,” she said. “But it’s also important to build positive energy. I’m not about being better than someone. I am about being your best self; challenge yourself and support others.”
Following her passion, Isis and her husband Del formed the Isis Foundation, a non-profit whose goals are to preserve and promote the ancient art of Middle Eastern dance, educate the community about cultural aspects of this art form, provide opportunities for study and performance and encourage the growth of talent and self-esteem.
Isis and Del also publish The Belly Dance Chronicles, an international magazine which publishes quarterly and is in its 19th year of publication. The magazine promotes the art of dance, celebrates its history and highlights dancers from around the globe. It is the official publication of the Isis Foundation.
In the Studio
Isis’ Studios and Academy of Performing Arts, one of the largest belly dance studios in Texas, is located in Bedford in the heart of DFW. The studio offers dance classes in Middle Easter Raqs Sharki (commonly known as belly dancing), Polyneasian/Tahitian/Hawaiian Hula, Fusion/Alternative/Tribal and Middle Eastern Rhythm for Tabla. Drum classes and special workshops are also offered throughout the year.
“I am proud of the fact that I have had so many dance and music students who have gone on to become professionals,” Isis said. “Some of them have won competitions around the world.”
For those interested in trying out the various styles of Middle Eastern dancing or drums, classes start again this month. Hula classes will begin in the fall. The studio is currently divided into seven-foot sections to keep everyone socially distanced and safe. Learn more at their website : https://isisandthestardancers.com/yhy.html