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Dancer leans on performing through loss of fiancé, cancer, and COVID

Johanna Krynytzky learned the art of belly dance in 1996 and has been dancing ever since.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As a little girl, Johanna Krynytzky was not much of a dancer. That fact is hard to fathom when you consider how fanatical she is about the craft now.

“I fell in love with belly dancing in 1996,” said the St. Pete woman.

Krynytzky grew up in Seattle, moved Chicago and crossed the globe to Turkey to pursue dance after college. She fell in love with belly dancing and studied its origins and techniques. She moved back to the United States and made her way to Tampa Bay in 2004.

She brought her love of belly dancing with her and quickly became a headline dancer for many bars and restaurants in the area.

“Everybody is okay with the way they are,” said Krynytzky, detailing the way the dance art is viewed around the world.

Then, in 2005, her fiancé died in a boating accident. It was a tragedy that blindsided her.

“That was pretty devastating; it was the first loss I’d ever really felt in my life,” she said.

By 2007, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which crippled her financially since she was without health insurance. She lost her beautiful blonde hair and needed a mastectomy. Thankfully many local doctors gave her treatment pro bono.

Through it all, she relied on dance for her smiles.

“There’s so many miracles in life. I know this. There’s so many miracles and so much magic in life that I am actually excited to see what happens, you know? Things might not go exactly the way I want them to but they say the only way to get your ways to not have a way,” said Krynytzky.

Now, a new, unexpected obstacle has arrived in the form of a global pandemic. The COVID-19 restrictions forced her to limit the number of lessons she was able to offer at her new business, Hip Expressions Belly Dance Studio. It was difficult since dance had always been the activity she turned to during trials.

“It’s been a challenging year. I won’t lie to you were down by like 60 percent,” Krynytzky said. “We can’t afford to stay in our current space. We may have to go totally virtual I don’t know.”

As she navigated the pandemic, the opportunities returned. She has over 20 instructors and hundreds of students. She teaches classes six days per week and offers lessons in Brazilian, Polynesian, and, of course, belly dancing.

Now that her passion is back, she feels better equipped to navigate the pandemic – however much longer it lasts.

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