About Michelle Leigh

I began my dancing career as a young ballerina, but it wasn’t until I discovered belly dance that my passion for dancing was truly sparked. I met my first teacher, Shawn Prychitko, in 1999 and studied and performed folkloric and tribal styles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In 2004, I focused on Oriental and Persian dance, studying privately with Audrey Elizabeth for a year in New Orleans, Louisiana.

After Hurricane Katrina hit the Coast in 2005, my family and I relocated to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I was serendipitously led to my teacher and co-dancer, Deborah Newberg. My dream of performing belly dance was manifested through the creation of The Saltanah Dancers, a collaborative Oriental dance troupe founded by Deborah, Areena Estul, and myself in 2006. For the next nine years, we produced hundreds of belly dance shows together, and it was through this unique collaborative that I grew into a vivacious group performer and soloist.

I am inspired and influenced by many dance styles including Latin Salsa, Brazilian Samba, Tahitian, and Bollywood. I continually study all styles of belly dance but am most passionate about Egyptian-style, oriental belly dance or raqs sharqi. In 2012, I had the pleasure of studying it firsthand in Egypt – an experience that radically changed my whole approach to the art form.

In 2015, I was in need of a paradigm shift and moved to Hawaii to expand my horizons and deepen my dance studies. I joined forces with local and international dance artists Najla Raqs and Stephanie Bolton in 2016 to form the Island Spice Dance Company, specializing in cabaret dances from around the world. We have performed in several unique dance shows together and are available for special events.  

It is my firm belief that embodying rhythm and movement regularly can heal you from the inside out by creating a physical channel to release your deeper emotions. I teach belly dance classes and workshops from this perspective, challenging my students to dance both intricately and emotively to connect their mental and emotional bodies into an authentic union of physical expression. I am ever fascinated with the self-healing that is available through the movement arts and have enjoyed facilitating this empowerment through both dance and therapeutic horseback riding. 

In addition to belly dancing, I run my own graphic design studio called Thunderhorse Graphics, specializing in print and digital layout design. As the proud mom of two teenage children with a new baby on the way, I am a fierce advocate for instinctive mothering and the sacred feminine. Merging all of these passions into one is the inspiration for my school of enchanting arts that will be unveiled in the near future. 

Please follow my dance journey on Facebook at facebook.com/michelleleighbellydance.


Belly Dancing Over the Years…