Yelisabel Villarreal Scott was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, in the midst of a tumultuous political and economic situation. When Yelisabel and her family were robbed at gunpoint while watching another carload of people being kidnapped, her life was forever changed. Her parents made the decision to move to the United States for a better life, and her father moved to Miami to prepare their new life and sent for his family six months later.
Acclimating to the US
Only 16 years old, Yelisabel found herself in Miami, Florida, knowing only a couple English phrases. She knew if she wanted to go to school, she needed to make the language a priority, and began to teach herself by watching Sesame Street in her apartment and listening to Mariah Carey and Celine Dion songs with a dictionary by her side. She discovered her apartment complex offered English classes and eventually, she knew enough to attend community college.
By the time she was 18, her English was strong enough to allow her to attend mainstream college classes. She earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Miami, where she met her husband, Dr. Steven Scott. Her husband’s career as a forensic psychologist brought them to Oklahoma, where Yelisabel earned a master’s degree in advertising at the University of Oklahoma.
The Rhythm of Marjan
Dance has been a part of Yelisabel’s life since she was just 3 years old. While at the University of Miami, she earned money dancing in Latin TV shows, and in Oklahoma, she became a member of Candela Latin Dancers from Clips ‘N Hips in Oklahoma City. She grew a career performing and teaching belly dance and Zumba classes in Norman, and founded Mystical Hips Dance Troupe, her own student-performance group. Belly dancers often take on a dance persona, and Yelisabel is known as Marjan Esáa, meaning “Sea Coral.”
Working full time as a graphic designer, doing freelance translations, volunteering at community events, teaching and performing dance, and producing Oklahoma’s own annual multicultural performance The Rhythm of the World – Dance & Music from Around the Globe has kept Yelisabel busy. However, as a new mom, the dancer is slowing down.
Her son, Victor Miguel, celebrated his first birthday in August. “Every time he smiles, my heart just melts,” she said. She has taken this time to focus on her son and step back from all of her projects, except one.
Beginning the preparations for the fourth production of her multicultural performance is something that makes Yelisabel extraordinarily proud. She said, “I had a vision of creating a venue for dance and music artists to perform the real thing and create a great experience for both the artists and the audience.”
The performers who have jumped on board with the project are dancers and musicians from all over the world. The show has become truly international, featuring dances from Hawaii, Mexico and throughout Latin America.
The American Dream
After 10 years of marriage and a beautiful son, Yelisabel feels proud looking back at her accomplishments, even though she was apprehensive at first to move to the US. Although learning the language and adapting to a new way of life was a challenge, she said she feels blessed to have gained citizenship and made a new home in Oklahoma. “It really is the American dream,” she said. “I feel happy and thankful and fortunate to be here. I feel so blessed.”