Can belly dancing heal? In 2006, Raqia Reich fell into a deep depression following the diagnosis of an illness and was pulled out by the inspiring dance. The mixture of femininity, strength, spirituality, and expression of the soul helped me love and empower myself again.”
By Brigid Morrissey

Raqia performed at Worldfest 2015  You can see her there this year on September 2, 5pm at
Fountain Stage located at the Belvedere.  

There has to be something to belly dancing if the human race has been practicing the art form for 5,000 years. Believed to be the oldest form of dance, belly dancing primarily consists of isolated movements in the torso and hips, rather than the limbs. As Raqia elegantly puts it, “Belly dance is a connection of body and soul, movement from the heart.” Additionally, she says, the dance helps clear the mind and allows one to let go of stress, creates feelings of empowerment, relaxation, creativity, and increases self esteem and happiness. The mental benefits aren’t the only reward. Physically, the dance increases muscle tone and flexibility, and the low impact of the movements are gentle on the back and joints. “The movements are natural to a woman’s body. Belly dance is for all women, all ages, and all body sizes.”

Belly dancing is also for residents in regions all over the globe. Raqia was born in Chicago, Illinois, but her parents are from Puerto Rico. As a child, living in a loving, bilingual household provided many traveling experiences, exposing Raqia to diverse cultures and art. And now, thanks to family living in the area, she is using her past to connect with all of us. We can submit ourselves to the dance with her studio in downtown New Albany, Raqia Belly Dance.

After extensive training with local and internationally known dancers, Raqia was presented with an opportunity to both perform and offer non-credit classes for students at IUS. Her instruction also included teaching JCPS Lifelong Adult Learning classes, which eventually evolved into independent belly dance workshops and classes. “The studio has provided me the opportunity to find my own strength, pay it forward, and share this gift of belly dance. I am blessed with the opportunity to meet and dance with ladies from all walks of life — all looking for a bit of fun, release of spirit, and connection with other ladies.” This short clip shows Raqia doing a few belly dancing moves at her studio.

For Raqia, the studio serves as a place to create: she has formed many friendships with her clients and started an annual toy drive to benefit HIV/AIDS infected and affected children during holidays. Her vision “to encourage women to discover self-love and a sense of well being through belly dance” radiates through her actions not only for individuals, but for the whole community.