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Dancing for Empowerment: Shea LeWallen


Since September 2014, Shannon (Shea) LeWallen has been teaching Shimmy Shape Up! at the Downtown Women’s Center.

Renamed from "RAQSHIMMY," Shimmy Shape Up! is a full-body workout created by Shea that combines belly dance, yoga, plyometrics, and music. Once a week, she leads women in this 1-hour, high-energy fitness experience.


Shea grew up as a competitive gymnast, ballerina dancer, pole vaulter, and heptathlete before pursuing her lifelong passion for dance and fitness. After spending 6 years dancing professionally in the company Layla & the Lotus Dancers, Shea became an independent choreographer, performer, and private trainer.

She came to DWC with the desire to create a full program that uses dance therapy as a way to overcome some of the obstacles and setbacks experienced by participants.

A unique public health intervention, her Shimmy Shape Up workout class is driven by the strength she sees in DWC participants:

“They too seem to experience the unique spiritual mind-body connection that comes from this class, which is meant to inspire hope and forward progress in all areas of life.”

Over the months, her workout class at DWC has maintained a strong following, with many participants spreading the word about her class outside the Center as a positive coping strategy and social support.


Shea leading her Shimmy Shape Up! class at DWC.

Recently, Shea challenged one woman who had potential to join her group for an international competition, telling her that if she could find a way to rehearsals, then Shea would sponsor her.

“What made it magical was watching her come back to class after the competition,” Shea recalled, “letting her share her experience, and seeing how much she motivated all the other participants to get better.”

“She became a hero, and now we have a really strong family of dedication and loyalty.”


Shea with her competition group, including Shimmy Shape Up! dancer Jill F. (top, second from right).

Today, Shea continues to share her enthusiasm for belly dancing with DWC participants. “I love what we have created so far… I stand behind the ongoing mission to empower women and end homelessness.”

We are so grateful to have a volunteer like Shea, who empowers women to take charge of their own health!

Want to get involved with our Health and Wellness program? Find out more about our volunteer opportunities here.

Group photo by: Shannon (Shea) LeWallen

Stephanie Chen
MSW, MPH, Health Program Specialist

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  • commented 2015-04-30 08:47:06 -0700
    I totally approve of this!! I am a belly dancer too. Huzzah!!!