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The Joy of OULA at Studio Soul

January 1, 2020 | by katie backer | photos by lovely hitchcock

Heading into the New Year, I had the opportunity to learn about Studio Soul and the power of OULA from Jenna Richter. Jenna presents a wonderful opportunity to “care for ourselves through movement, music, and mindfulness,” helping us dance into this new decade with an abundance of joy and peace.

Tell us about yourself and your fitness background.

           My fitness background is largely dance-based. My mom enrolled me in Jean's School of Dance in Cut Bank, MT, when I was around 9 years old. I LOVED IT. Dancing was pure freedom, and that feeling alone fueled me to take more classes and explore everything from ballet to tap, jazz, and modern. I assisted with classes and eventually started teaching. I continued to dance when my family moved to Bozeman and kept right on through college at Montana State University.

           After graduation, I moved to San Diego and started working in the nonprofit field. I continued to teach there for a year, but at a certain point, I decided to stop dancing and teaching to pursue the “corporate ladder.” I think back and want to smack myself. Why did I feel like I had to give up something that brought me such joy?! Fast forward many years… All the extra hours, the long commute, and the promotions with more responsibilities left me feeling exhausted and stripped of any kind of identity. I distinctly remember someone asking me what I did for fun, and I couldn’t think of a single thing to say. I made something up on the spot based on what I knew other people liked to do. It was at that point that I knew I needed to make a big change: move back home to Montana.

Is that when you learned of OULA? How did you get introduced to it?

           Once I settled in Billings, it wasn’t long until I started teaching dance again. I’ve always enjoyed working with kids, but I mentioned to a coworker that I’d also like to dance with adults. She had recently moved to Billings from Missoula and suggested I check out OULA. She had taken classes there and said I'd love it. So, I stalked the OULA Fitness website for weeks, trying to figure out if it was for me. There were no OULA instructors or classes in Billings [at the time], so I really didn't know what to think of it… other than it looked and sounded like quite a lot of fun. I knew that if I liked it and if I wanted to do it, I would have to get certified and bring it to Billings. I had so many doubts. I was ‘too old’ or ‘I wasn’t in good enough shape…’ the list went on and on. I finally got the courage up to email Kali, OULA's creator, and was overwhelmed by her welcoming response. With her encouragement, I found myself, on the very day of my 40th birthday, in Missoula at my first OULA class! I was the one in the back of the room with a huge grin on my face. The space was packed, everyone was dancing… many of them were even singing, and it felt like coming home.

What is OULA? The www.oulafitness.com site defines OULA as:

           OULA Fitness combines the depth and soulfulness of a mind-body practice with the carefree playfulness of a living room dance party. By integrating the mind, body, and heart, our focus is on full-being health and wellness in a fun and community-centered atmosphere. OULA Fitness is a Montana (MissOULA) made experience, led by founder, Kali Linder since 2010.

OULA gives you a chance to feel. To feel sexy, to feel silly, to feel sad, to feel free. But most importantly, OULA gives you a chance to feel human. It is in these shared moments that we feel truly connected to one another. In OULA, whether you need to feel free, empowered, or rejuvenated, all you have to do is show up and be present for yourself. (You do NOT have to have a dance background to participate). You will discover that your mind and body want to dance together, you will learn to trust yourself and those around you, and you will begin to believe that you deserve to take up space, to be seen and heard, and you will know that your story matters.

Where has OULA led you today?

           I’m so thankful to the YMCA - where I was teaching - for embracing OULA and adding it to the group exercise schedule.

           Throughout my life, though, I have always dreamed of owning my own studio… and it probably would have been one of my biggest regrets had I not met Kimberly (Kam) McGivern through OULA. Kam is a very talented yoga instructor who attended an OULA One class I was teaching (a yoga dance fusion variation of OULA). She approached me after class and expressed her similar dreams. A long coffee conversation later, and we were in business! Maybe it was fated that our business would be called Studio Soul because we are Soul Sisters. Talk about an immediate connection!

Can you tell us about Studio Soul and what guests can expect?

           Our vision is to create a safe space to be fiercely vulnerable. A place to practice self-love and wild acceptance through music and movement. Studio Soul is home to OULA as well as yoga and mental health workshops, group work, and individual work provided by Chelsey Dotson, SWLC, to complete the circle of whole-body wellness.

This New Year, let's become “fiercely vulnerable” in order to reclaim our joy and intentions throughout this fresh, bright decade.

Originally printed in the January 2020 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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