District 19 infuses flourish and flare into Boise’s cultural scene
By Clark Gillespie
Photography by Nena Earl
Inside Starbelly School of Dance, the musty smell of heat and sweat competes with the voice that firmly counts out steps as pulsating rhythms and passionate music blares from the stereo. The music stops and starts. And then stops and starts again. The smack of heeled shoes against the hardwood slaps against the walls.
“This is fun! This is sass!” exclaims Julianna Thomas. She is an excited and focused instructor. She’s as deft at enthusiastically coaxing the most out of her students as she is at the dance she teaches. Her whole being begs them to understand the sensuality, the excitement and emotions of Flamenco.
With such an influx of amazing entrepreneurs, artisans, art and music coming to Boise in recent years, it is fascinating that one of the more unique and exotic artistic gems found in our city is completely home grown. Thomas is the woman behind District 19, a dual-serving brand that’s one part Flamenco – an organic, Spanish-style dance she does with her guitar-playing partner Darren Davidavich – and one part clothing line, which includes dance clothing and recycled fashion sold at the Boise Co-Op.
Though both District 19 Flamenco and Clothing were founded right here in Boise, they took a world of travels to come to fruition.
At 23, Thomas felt as though she was floundering. Working at a local Egyptian restaurant, the self-proclaimed “chubby hippy girl” was instantly hooked to Flamenco after one of the belly dancers at the restaurant convinced her to take a Flamenco class.
While visiting a friend in New York City two years later, Thomas decided to find a class to look in on. As she watched, her eyes were opened. Students with the same time investment she had were so much more advanced. She said to herself, “I feel like I’ll die if I don’t pursue this,” so she sold all of her belongings and moved east to study. The time spent in New York was extremely fruitful, yet after living there, as well as two immersive stints in Spain, Thomas always found herself back in Boise.
“It’s so beautiful here, and everywhere I go, I just miss it like crazy,” Thomas said. And it’s that desire to live in Boise that ultimately pays big dividends for its residents.
Thomas teaches beginner, intermediate and advanced Flamenco classes at Starbelly on Vista Avenue, attracting a variety of people who are curious about the sensual dance rooted in Spanish history.
For those who are more inclined to watch instead of perform, District 19 Flamenco performs regularly at Salt Tears Coffeehouse and Noshery on State Street and Collister. Packed and enthusiastic crowds watch Thomas and listen to Davidavich while enjoying local brews and excellent food.
On any given Friday night, the room buzzes with excitement, and when District 19 comes to the stage for the finale, everyone is energized and seems to intuitively agree in spirit with Thomas as she proclaims in word and dance, “There is much adventure to be had in this life; I will tell you that.”
If you are eager to explore the world of Flamenco, visit http://www.starbellyschoolofdance.com for information on lessons, or contact Thomas at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org for booking information.