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Jawaahir Company Biographies

     
    Artistic Director

Photo of Cassandra.

 

 

Cassandra Shore (Cassandra) began performing Middle Eastern dance in 1975, and her intensity, musicality and technique quickly set her apart from the average performer. She has made over a dozen research trips to the Middle East, exploring virtually all North African countries as well as Turkey and Greece in her search for cultural understanding, authentic techniques, and inspiration. In addition, she has studied with the finest teachers and choreographers of Middle Eastern dance, including Mahmoud Reda, director of the Reda Group, Cairo, Egypt, and former Under Secretary of culture; Mohammed Khalil, director of the National Folklore Group of Egypt; Vivian Hamamjian, former member of the Caracalla Ballet, Beirut; Raqia Hassan, choreographer to Egypt's top dance stars and former member of the Reda Group; Ibrahim Farrah, director of the Near Eastern Ensemble, NYC, the first professional US performing company in Middle Eastern dance.

In 1978, Cassandra opened The Cassandra School, which now offers over 15 classes weekly in Minneapolis and St. Paul, from beginning to professional levels, in technique, choreography, performance skills, dance conditioning, and Arabic language and culture studies. She formed Jawaahir Dance Company in 1989 as a vehicle for her unique choreographic vision. Since then, Jawaahir has been recognized for its groundbreaking 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. Her work has been rewarded with grants, commissions, and awards. She offers workshops, concerts, and master classes worldwide, teaching and performing regularly in locations such as Finland, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, New Zealand, and throughout the United States and Canada.

More About Cassandra

 
   
  Company Members
Malika  

Malika Benachour has been a student of The Cassandra School since March 2009. Her introduction to dance was studying Latin dance and Afro-Cuban rhythms with René Thompson, and that has continued for 7 years. Malika joined Jawaahir in 2011.

 
       
Tatyana  

Tatyana Butkova started studying Middle Eastern Dance with Tina Shokri while visiting her home city of Minsk, Belarus in 2002. In 2004 she started classes at The Cassandra School and fell in love with spectacular performances by Jawaahir Dance Company. Tatyana performs at the Guild of Oriental Dance Festivals, Pratt Haflas, and the Renaissance Festival.

 
       
Laura  

Laura Crocker (Lahlia) had the good fortune to attend her first Middle Eastern dance class with Cassandra while studying linguistics in college. She was captivated by the music and movements of the dance, and found that the interplay between the two was her new favorite language. In 2007 Laura joined Jawaahir Dance Company, and has been involved in many local and regional Middle Eastern dance performances since then. She also enjoys performing as a soloist at restaurants and substitute teaching at The Cassandra School.

 
       
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, and in 2012 moved to Brazil and continued her studies of Middle Eastern dance there. She is now back and performing with Jawaahir Dance Company.

 
       
Genevieve  

Genevieve Johnsen (Genevieve) had her first taste of Middle Eastern dance through a community education class while attending college in Duluth, MN. After moving to Minneapolis in 2008, she was excited to find The Cassandra School and began taking classes. She continues to be impressed with the music, movement, and cultural expertise that Cassandra and the Jawaahir members share with their students. Genevieve joined Jawaahir in 2012.

 
       
Sarah  

Sarah Jones-Larson (Toha) performed internationally as a child with Philadelphia's Ballet Des Jeunes and New York's Ecos De Espana. Locally, she performed with Zorongo Flamenco and Theatre de la Jeune Lune before joining Jawaahir in 1994. A student of Arabic and a voice-over artist, Sarah made her Arabic singing debut with the Georges Lammam Orchestra in Cassandra's solo show “Orientalia.” In May, 2007, Sarah returned to Jawaahir after a year in Philadelphia hosting a radio program on WJJZ (under the name, Salina Jones.) In Philadelphia, she danced with Habiba’s ensemble.

 
       
Theresa  

Theresa Kane began studying Middle Eastern dance in 1998 after attending a performance of "Shoma" and being struck by the beauty of the movements. She performs regularly as a soloist, teaches, and continues to study extensively with Cassandra as well as dance instructors from around the world. She joined Jawaahir in 2004.

 
       
Leslie  

Leslie Kennedy (Aliyah Sahar) 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  

Kathy McCurdy (Naima) studied ballet, jazz, tap, and modern before discovering Middle Eastern dance. She studied with Tara Auringer in Madison, WI and Dahlena in Chicago, IL before moving to Minneapolis to study with Cassandra. She is a founding member of Jawaahir, teaches at The Cassandra School, and volunteers in the Jawaahir office.

 
       
Jenny  

Jenny Piper (Jemorah) began her dance career in ballet, contemporary, and pointe at the age of seven. She has studied Middle Eastern dance since 1995, becoming a member of Jawaahir in 2000. She performs locally with Jawaahir, and teaches at The Cassandra School.

 
       
Angela  

Angela Skrade (Angelina) 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, where she continues her studies to this day. Angela performs regularly as a soloist in local restaurants, and teaches through The Cassandra School. She joined Jawaahir in 2011.

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.


Angela doing henna.
       
Renee  

Renee Szudy 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  

Helen Voelker has been a member of Jawaahir since 1990. She has performed with the Nancy Hauser Dance Company and the Continental Dance Theatre. Helen is a medical researcher at the University of Minnesota.

 
       
Jawaahir apprentice Heidi Waldron photo.  

Heidi Waldron (Zahirah) began dancing with Nadia Sahar in Milwaukee, WI in 1995. Relocating to Minneapolis in 1998, she continued her studies at The Cassandra School and, in 2004, joined Jawaahir. Heidi currently performs at several Twin Cities restaurants and is an active member of the Guild of Oriental Dance. Her performance highlights include Milwaukee’s Symphony Ball and annual Arabian Fest.

 
   
    Apprentices
   

 

 
megan  

Megan Cunningham (Megan) began studying Middle Eastern Dance through the Cassandra School in 2011. In addition to regular classes she attends various dance and music workshops, Oasis Dance Camps, and Cassandra’s Weeklong Dance Intensive. Megan enjoys traveling and learning about music and dance styles of different regions. She joined Jawaahir in 2016.

 
       
Denise Domack  

Denise Domack (Janaan) began her dance training in classical ballet at age 9. She furthered her training with MN Dance Theatre, Zenon, and the University of W-Stevens Point in which she majored in dance and performed with the university's dance company. After opening a dance studio in 2003, with her focus on teaching, this beautiful performing art became part of her own personal training. She has been taking classes in Middle Eastern Dance since 2004 and studying with Cassandra Shore since 2007.  She also teaches classes through community education centers in the south metro, local organizations, performs at local venues, and has danced with Sisters of the Sahara since 2012.

 
       
Paula Miller  

Paula Miller (Paula) began studying Middle Eastern dance in 2006 at the Cassandra School. She had never taken a dance class but quickly fell in love with the movement and music. This sparked her love for dance and she went on to study lindy hop, charleston, blues dance, and ballroom dance. She moved to Michigan in 2011 where she studied and danced with Unveiled Dance Company. Returning to Minnesota in 2016, she continues to study with Cassandra. She joined Jawaahir in 2016.

 
       
Jessica Paquin  

Jessica Paquin (Iscah Paquin) has been studying Middle Eastern dance since 2003, where she was first drawn to the joyous expression of women and camaraderie. In addition to continued study with local and international masters, she studies extensively with the Dervish Society of America to deepen her understanding of dance as meditation and inquiry into embodied spirituality. She is a popular soloist at area restaurants and the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.  She joined Jawaahir in 2016.

 
       
Kate Southwick  

Kate Southwick (Inara) has loved dance since she learned the twist at age 3, and has dabbled in ballet, tap, hip hop, and modern dance. She taught and performed with the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society for 12 years.  Kate began studying Middle Eastern dance in 1991 and has studied extensively with Cassandra, Margo Abdo O’Dell and other local and international dance instructors and artists.  She is a Middle Eastern Dance instructor in Northfield and a founding member of Al-Bahira Dance Company. She enjoys performing locally and regionally and joined Jawaahir in 2016.

 
       
    On Leave
       
Christina  

Christina Lira first started taking Middle Eastern Dance classes at The Cassandra School in 2003. Prior to joining Jawaahir, she performed with Sumunar Indonesian Dance Group and Al Bahira Middle Eastern Dance Theater. She has taken workshops from various teachers such as Karim Nagi, Virginia, Raqia Hassan, Aziza of Cairo, Nourhan Sharif, and Jillina. Christina continues to follow her passion for dance, taking classes and performing at local restaurants.

 
       
Alisa  

Alisa Martodam (Aleesa) was first introduced to Middle Eastern dance in 1999 at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. Captivated by the graceful movements and energetic expression of the dance, she has studied Middle Eastern dance ever since, attending classes and workshops taught by local and internationally renowned dance instructors. Alisa is Assistant Director of the Sisters of the Sahara dance troupe and dances as a solo artist in local restaurants, open stages, and haflas. She joined Jawaahir in 2011.

 
       
Miriam  

Miriam Samuels-Schwartz grew up in the Twin Cities performing Israeli folk dance with Orim Dance Troupe. In 2005 while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she took her first Middle Eastern dance class with Mona N'wal, and fell in love with the form. After returning to the Twin Cities, Miriam continued her studies under Cassandra Shore, and has since performed with multiple local groups including Caravan Dance and Music. Miriam has also studied Brazilian samba and Javanese court dance.

 
       
Monique  

Monique Yenamandra has been studying Middle Eastern dance since the late 1980s. The first and major influence on her studies lies with Cassandra. While living in Bonn, Germany for six months, she studied with the excellent Turkish teacher and performer, Seina, and since has supplemented her education with workshops with Egyptian dancers such as Raqia Hassan, Nadia Hamdi, Mahmoud Reda, and Ibrahim Farrah and travel to the Middle East to study music and dance. Monique's performance career began in 1996 when she joined Jawaahir Dance Company. In 2013 she returned from leave.

 
     
  Board of Directors
Jawaahir board member Kay Hardy Campbell photo.  

Kay Hardy Campbell is a writer and musician with a long-time interest in the music and folk dance arts of the Gulf region. She learned the folk dances while an eight year resident in Saudi Arabia, and has been teaching American women the folk dances of the Gulf for thirty years. She co-founded and directs the Arabic Music Retreat at Mount Holyoke College. Kay has been on the Jawaahir board for 10 years.

Kay has an article in the Summer 2011 issue of Saudi Aramco World magazine. Listening for Al-Andalus is about Spain's Eduardo Paniagua and the music of al-Andalus.
 

Image for Kay's article.
   

AND Patricia Auch, Salah Abdel Fattah, Eileen Goren, Theresa Kane, Kathy McCurdy, Melanie Meyer, Eileen O'Shaughnessy, Jenny Piper

   

 

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Jawaahir Dance Company & The Cassandra School - 3010 Minnehaha Ave S, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55406    612-872-6050    | Contact Us |