Volleyball-et: From en pointe to point scorer, dancer Jonah Villegas enjoys being a DIVA diva

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  |  Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

For Jonah Villegas, the most frustrating thing about being a dancer is convincing people that his talent has nothing to do with a pole.

“When I tell people I’m a dancer they always say, ‘Where? BJ’s? The Tin Room?’” says the classically trained terpsichorean, who has worked with the Texas Ballet Theater. Last year, when he put his dancing career on hold, he decided to look for something else athletic he could do to stay limber and active.

“That’s why I joined DIVA,” says Villegas, 22.

Other than summers spent hitting a ball over a net in the sand, Villegas has no experience at volleyball. But when he complained to the man he was dating that life in suburban McKinney, was stifling for a young gay man, his boyfriend recommended he join the Dallas Independent Volleyball Association.

“I’ve been out since my senior year in high school, but it’s hard to be proud and loud when you’re surrounded by nothing but restaurants and straight people,” Villegas jokes. “I think that DIVA and the gay sports of Dallas are overlooked — I have made some really great friends and feel more part of the gay community. After I heard about DIVA, I still didn’t join for more than a year — I regret that I didn’t join sooner. It’s a good way to meet quality gay people.”

Villegas’ first season with DIVA started last summer; right now, he’s gearing up for the spring season, which kicks off with new member orientation and clinics this week.

“There is a wide range of skill levels. When you do to the new member clinic, they figure what division you’re in: recreational, intermediate, competitive, advanced, power or open,” he says; intermediate is the largest, and the division he’s in. From then, captains conduct a draft to put you on teams.

So does his ballet training transfer to the volleyball court? Yes and no.

“They are very similar in the fact you need to be focused and there’s a specific way to do things. Your body tells you what come natural to you and you have to train yourself how to do it the right way. But there are differences in the way you move.”

There’s another way they’re alike, too.

“The dance world is very cutthroat — if you’re not practicing you’re already behind. I joined for friends but these people are competitive! There’s lots of slapping butts and laughing, but they don’t like to lose. Well, neither do I.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 11, 2001.

—  John Wright