Sometime last year a notice went out that Yanis Marshall was coming to Atlanta. It sort of zipped through our email like a flameline on a race track. I don’t think I even read the whole event description before my paypal account had already deducted the money and I was ready to go with ticket in hand. I couldn’t believe it! My heart just collapsed and I sat dumbfounded that this gorgeous, beyond talented specimen of beauty was coming not just to Atlanta but to visit our quaint dance cirlce…to teach and entertain us! Between that time and the day he arrived I could barely continue my weekly look at videos of him online because the anticpation and excitement was just too much. I could barely handle it!
Workshop Day II
My hands shook as I drove around in circles trying to find Glow Studio where the event was to take place. The day before he had taught two workshops. I was there for day two. I wanted to go to both days but I knew that would look “stalkerish.” I was so nervous about seeing him in the flesh. We were not going to see him perform but we did have the option of being observers…no pictures, no video allowed without his permission. I arrived 10 minutes in advance of the 11:30am doors call time. He got there about 2-3 minutes after. He wore big sunglasses, his gorgeous brown hair with natural highlights/flecks of gold were swept away from his face. He laid down near the mirror, face toward me. He may have been staring at this big haired girl in white frames with their tint of blue thinking, “surely, you’re not going to attempt to do this…” or maybe his eyes were closed and he was resting peacefully with his beautiful assistant Khadeejah by his side (I think that’s her name). Either way they were both an image of perfect health, gorgeous and sunkissed…fit! Very fit! Stunning! I admired him laying there without staring too hard but it was difficult. I wanted to go over and touch him…just run my hand over his arm and pet him like a living doll. He was just THAT gorgeous.
Within seconds of my last glance, as not to be rude and stare a hole into him, Sabeeya and her team jump into action with an amazing warm up to one of Punjabi MC’s classic hits in a remix. It was quite impressive how dedicated they were to that piece of music as if she starts her day with that on full blast (I know I used upon its original release). I enjoyed watching them. Their Bhangra-pop warm-up was cool!
As soon as the song finished she turned to Prince Yanis and said, “we’re all yours, it’s all you now.” And he automatically snapped into it. As he made selections on his computer you could hear what he had stored on it…a wide variety of music from just about every genre imaginable. People scurried to the floor, slipping on the appropriate gear to handle the extensive warm-up and performance style sequence to follow. This particular day the attendees were learning a lyrical piece. The warm-up was long and rightly so…it wasn’t until toward the end that I realised he was still warming up the group. The way in which he warmed them up was so beautiful I thought, “he’s created his own warm up choreo?! Clever!” But certain warm-up moves that I was instructed to do during my two years in ballet and modern dance revealed that he had only just begun…and the way in which he led the class in these movements was soooo beautiful. Everything, every second was just breathtaking to the point I began to cry. I held back my tears for about 20 minutes and then the pressure and emotion from watching the warm-up just got to me. I grabbed my bag, searched for my tissues. I was so overwhelmed. I was fearful of closing my eyes because I knew the tears would just pour like it a river followed by sobbing. I feared I’d become disruptive…the struggle was real.
I will not give away his secret sauce or explain the details of the post warm-up sequence but the music, the moves and what I think were impromptu choreos just…melted my superfan heart. I looked at him thoroughly. I absorbed every turn, every sweeping hand movement and level change. From the moments where he was on his feet to the eye-catching, heart-stopping floor work I just didn’t look away. I even moved into a different seat so I could admire his flexibility and the way he presented his art to the class. He corrected people with gentle nudges and touches, it was just so lovely. My word, I’ve never seen anything like it. At one point he did the moves without them and we all just swooned with admiration for his talent. Then he separated the room into groups and each team did their level best with much success. It was admirable to just see everyone push through these non-raqs beladi moves. For a group of people who have been presenting fusion and bellydance for the past few years it was a far cry from our current norm and they mastered it beautifully. There was a young man in the group who teaches hip hop and he, too made, it through the class with passion and determination, everyone did.
Our afternoon concluded with lots of warm hugs and pictures. It’s rare that I take photo but I did that day. This was a moment I wanted to remember forever and I believe I will. I can still feel his energy and spirit. Heaven help me I could barely speak English around him, most of what I said dribbled out in French. It took me an entire week to get over his departure back to his country and life. I all but cried again.
I spend my days working, volunteering and spending time in the company some very talented musicians. I A good deal of my life is following bands and working with fanclubs; all of those experiences are life changing and lovely. This one, in particular, left a big footprint on my soul. Even as an observer I felt every bit of what he taught the class and I know we were extremely blessed to be in his presence. Baraktohi ya Yanis, G-d bless you for days, your time and kindness were more than appreciated!
Thanks for reading,
Many thanks to Glow Studio for bringing him to Atlanta!!
To learn more about Yanis Marshall’s extensive background click here