July Featured Dancer: Jenn Shamsa

Time for July’s feature! This month we present to you the lovely Jenn Shamsa!
A belly dancer for 12 years, I am also a classically trained pianist with a Bachelor of Music from USU. In belly dance I have found some fun and interesting angles to apply my musical knowledge. I love choreographing because to me it is a lot like writing a song, yet there is that physical element that has the power to draw the audience’s attention to help them hear parts of the music I want to highlight. I analyze the music so that I can direct the audience to hear composition concepts such as the musical form, repeated themes, and interesting chord changes, which all help in the understanding of the song itself. I feel very strongly that when we dance, we should be saying something. This is art—we are creating art.
I am very passionate about music, and early on I had ideas about how to express all of this musical richness in dance that I wasn’t seeing in other troupes. So I took matters into my own hands in 2009, and formed Troupe Tarab to pursue my creativity and explore choreography. Over the years, I have refined my choreography technique, and continue to challenge myself in that area. I chose the troupe name after watching a documentary about Middle Eastern classical musicians. They said that when they play, they try to reach “tarab.” I knew exactly what they meant. They translated it as, “a higher state.” That is what I try to do with my troupe.
I try to take every workshop from every visiting belly dancer that comes to town, as well as classes from our many renown local teachers. I am proud to have studied with Yasamina Roque, Zahirah Sheya, Amina, Trisha McBride, Mandy Williams, and Stephanie Buranek. Some international dancers that have inspired me in their workshops are NagaSita, Fahtiem, Colleena Shakti, Jill Parker, Irina Akulenko, and Aziz, to list a few. There is so much to learn, and it is something I am excited to continue for the rest of my life. I will never stop learning and practicing as much as possible, and incorporating new moves, techniques, and ideas into every choreography I create. I recently have started presenting an advanced choreography series each summer, where I invite interested dancers to join my troupe for several weeks. I plan to expand these to more a year, and for more levels.
I would love for everyone to try belly dancing. I like to tell people that it will take over your life—in a good way!