TRINITY — Inside the well-lit studio, a group of barefoot bellydancers outfitted with jingling coin belts danced their way through a modern medley of music with Middle Eastern flair. The back wall, painted purple to contrast with the rest of the studio’s calming beige walls and mix of wood and tiled flooring, stood out against the painted golden logo — “Hipnique by Taliah.”
The song came to an end and Taliah floated gracefully across the floor to switch off the CD player. She resumed her position in front of her “Art of Bellydance” students and smiled.
“By next week, you’ll be ready to perform,” Taliah told them. “You don’t have to perform but you’ll be able to. You can do it at home in front of your cat or in front of millions of people.”
The class laughed.
Taliah, who uses the one name, is a professional bellydancer who has performed and taught in the Tampa Bay for the past three years. She opened her own studio in New Port Richey last month to take her love of teaching to the next level. She hopes to give adults in the community a new outlet for dance without having to trek out to Tampa to learn it.
“The interest in this area is huge,” Taliah said. “There’s not much for adults here in the way of dance and we offer unique forms of it, not your typical stuff. It’s a new kind of environment, not a gym or a typical work-out environment.”
In addition to 36 bellydance classes a month, the studio offers Zumba, hoop dance, salsa, hip-hop and “piloxing,” a combination of pilates and boxing. Prices for single classes range from $8 to $15 with the option of signing up for a monthly membership with perks like guest passes, cheap workshops and private lessons, and a coin belt.
What makes Taliah stand out among other bellydance instructors is years of world travel. After attending a private high school in Tampa, Taliah, with the support of her parents, eschewed college and a traditional career path in favor of travel.
“I was a bit of a gypsy,” Taliah said. “I had nothing but a one-way ticket and a backpack.”
“You’re told to go to college, get a job. I was interested in other cultures and wanted to do something different. I wanted to get a different kind of education, to see the world and give back a little bit.”
Taliah spent years in China, African and Russia doing humanitarian work, building hospitals in impoverished communities, rebuilding homes ravaged by war, working in orphanages and giving first aid to those in need. Her last stop was in Israel, where she spent three years falling in love with the culture and music.
She also met her husband there at a bus stop. He was a counter-terrorism police officer in Jerusalem. She was a free spirit. Her experience traveling is what she believes draws people to her classes and performances. “It’s more authentic,” she said.
“I understand the inner workings of the art form [of bellydancing] and it gives a different perspective.”
They moved back to the United States in 2008 and Taliah began intensive training with award-winning bellydance instructors. Her husband got his citizenship and now works for the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office as a deputy while Taliah inspires women, and men, of all backgrounds and body types to try something new.
“There’s a misconception that you have to look and act a certain way to be a bellydancer,” Taliah said. “It’s just not true. Women are also often reluctant to try dancing, especially as adults. Step out of your comfort zone and you might find your next obsession or hobby. It’s never too late to try.”
Hipnique, which includes Taliah and a team of certified instructors, offers a wide array of classes several days and times during the week. For a full schedule, visit www.hipniquestudio.com or call (813) 997-5646. The studio is in Grand Trinity Plaza, 4102 Little Road.