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The Cassandra School Teachers Biographies

Photo of Cassandra.

Cassandra Shore (more about Cassandra)
Cassandra began performing Middle Eastern dance in 1975 and has since made over 15 research trips to the Middle East. Her studies began in San Francisco with the legendary performer, Jamila Salimpour. She has studied with some of the finest teachers and choreographers of Middle Eastern dance, notably including Mahmoud Reda, Mohammed Khalil, Raqia Hassan, and the late Ibrahim Farrah. In 1989, she formed Jawaahir Dance Company, which has since been recognized for its ground-breaking repertory of traditional, modern, and fusion works of Middle Eastern and contemporary dance. Today, Cassandra is known as a master teacher, star performer, and creative artist in the field of Middle Eastern dance.


Theresa Kane
Theresa began studying Middle Eastern dance in 1998. She began to teach the art through community education programs in 2002, and began teaching at the Cassandra School in 2004. She continues to study extensively with Cassandra, and takes every opportunity to learn from other U.S. and international dancers. Her goal is to pass on as much knowledge as possible in a humor-filled way.


Leslie Kennedy (Aliyah Sahar)
Leslie started dancing when she was 3, but it wasn't until 1989 that she discovered her love for Middle Eastern dance. She studies with Cassandra as well as traveling around the US and Egypt to study with other renowned Middle Eastern dance instructors. Leslie teaches and performs locally and in the Midwest and is also Co-Director of The Sisters of the Sahara dance ensemble. In 2010 Leslie became an Artist in Residence at the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts and in 2011 she joined Jawaahir.




Kathy McCurdy
Kathy studied ballet, jazz, tap, and modern before discovering Middle Eastern dance in the late 1970's. She studied with Tara Auringer, was a founding member of Noor el Sahara, a dance troupe that performed in ethnic restaurants and folk dance festivals in Wisconsin, and began teaching in Madison, WI. She also studied with Dahlena in Chicago, IL, before moving to Minneapolis to study with Cassandra. She is a founding member of Jawaahir, has been teaching at the Cassandra School since 1990.

Lauren Fraga  

Lauren Olson Fraga
Lauren started studying Middle Eastern dance in 2006 at The Cassandra School and immediately fell in love with the art form. She has studied with a number of different artists both locally and abroad. She joined Jawaahir in 2010. In 2012 she moved to Brazil for a while to continue her studies of Middle Eastern dance and start teaching there. Since her return from Brazil, she is now excited to begin teaching at The Cassandra School in 2017.




Jenny Piper
Jenny began her life in dance with a 10-year foundation of ballet and contemporary. In 1995 she began taking Middle Eastern Dance at The Cassandra School, and in 2000 she became a professional dancer with Jawaahir and began teaching at the School. Jenny feels that a successful class marries the body alignment and sense of solid core that ballet drills and repetitions taught her with the carefree, yet precise techniques of belly dance.

Learning dance movements is one thing, but to dance those movements is another; dance is moving art. Regardless of performing, Jenny believes dance should be an expression of the emotions inside all of us, and teaches this in her classes.


Angela Skrade 
Angela attended her first Middle Eastern dance classes in 2001 through Community Ed. After a year of learning with various local instructors, she moved on to classes with Cassandra. She continues her studies to this day with Cassandra, as well as through workshops with other acclaimed Middle Eastern Dance artists. Angela joined Jawaahir Dance Company, and began teaching through The Cassandra School in 2011. She performs regularly with Jawaahir and as a soloist in local restaurants.

When Angela is not dancing, you can find her working as the administrative assistant in Jawaahir’s office, or practicing the beautiful art of henna through her business Ancient Traditions Mehndi.


Renee Szudy 
Renee began studying under Cassandra in 1996 and joined Jawaahir in 2006. She was drawn to Middle Eastern dance after attending the UN Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995) where she saw Arabic women perform social dances. She liked how they took their scarves off their heads and wrapped them around their hips in order to accent their movements; she was particularly inspired by their shimmies. Renee has a 12-year background in gymnastics.


Helen Voelker
Helen has been studying with Cassandra since 1984, making The Cassandra School and Middle Eastern dance her longest continuing relationship. She regularly goes to Dallas for workshops with Egyptian dancers and teachers, such as Dina, Randa Kamal, Dr. Mo Geddawi, and Raqia Hassan. She attended Raqia's Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival in Egypt in 2003, where she took class from the great Sohair Zaki, and has been to Egypt two other times to educate herself about Egyptian dance and culture. Because Helen started dance as an adult, she has a special appreciation for students who find love of the dance later in life, and encourages everyone to believe that it's never too late to start.

  "..celebrates the body's expressive powers.."
  Star Tribune, Minneapolis, MN

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