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Jane with Suhaila & Isabel
Jane with Suhaila & Isabel
Jane Yee Shan Chung
Jane Yee Shan Chung

Gilded Serpent presents...
Live a DanceDivasí Life!
Interview with Jane Yee Shan Chung
by Lisa Chen

Recently among the local bellydance community in Taiwan, people talk a lot about Janeís classes and her Suhaila-inspired techniques. ďDid you sign up for Janeís class yet?Ē becomes a quite common greeting. Janeís Mauritius-born background and her passion to bellydance makes her a very inspiring instructor as well as a brilliant bellydancer of her own style.

Q: Tell our readers about you.
J: I was born in Mauritius - to those who donít know where Mauritius is, it is a tiny and beautiful island on the Indian Ocean. After high school graduation, I went to Taipei for college education, where I majored in dance and really polished my Chinese. Then I married and have my own family here with two wonderful kids. Now I live and work in Taipei.

Q: How did you start with bellydance?
J: Bellydance was never foreign to me. My home town in Mauritius is a multi-cultural place where the Islam community is quite strong there. So naturally we had bellydancers and I saw them performing a lot.

Upon my graduation from college, I began to teach dance. I taught several kinds of dance and bellydance was one of the dances I taught in the classes. My students really love bellydance. For me at that time, bellydance was quite fun to teach and dance, but not particularly appealing among all the dance forms I was teaching at the time. I simply wished to have my students enjoy dancing more and help them explore the versatile world of dancing by introducing bellydance to them.

In 2004, I attended a 10-day intensive bellydance workshop in Maui, Hawaii.[ed note- Delilah's?] That was the turning point to me. During the 10 days I was so inspired and touched by this beautiful dance. After this workshop, I was totally drawn to bellydance and became very serious about it. I have been very focus on bellydance since then. I began to attend bellydance workshops and learn more about bellydance through books and the internet.

Q: You are the first Suhaila Technique Level 1 and Level 2 certificated dancer and instructor in Taiwan. You even have Suhailaís permission to teach those techniques from the level you hold in Taiwan. How did you get involved with Suhaila Salimpour and her techniques?

J: My first impression with Suhaila came from her performing in the first Bellydance Superstar performance DVD. I was very impressed by her passionate and yet powerful stage presence. So I started to look up more information on her. The more I learned about her, the more I fell for. Then I saw the Suhaila technique workshop announced on her website and I just signed up without knowing exactly what her format is.  I am the only person who did not learn Suhaila format before at that workshop. I was so naÔve, I simply wanted to give it a try.

It is quite an unforgettable experience to attend Suhaila workshop. You feel so different from the first day to the last day at workshop. It gets more challenging each day during the 5-day workshop and sometimes it is very frustrated that one might wonder why she signed up for it. From my own experiences, Level 1 is not that difficult with my past teaching experiences with yoga and aerobic exercise. Level 2 is truly physically challenging and much more frustrating. However, once you finished with the level 2, you start to miss it and you wish you could have done it again.

I didnít expect that all the techniques and knowledge I learned from the Suhaila workshop would turn out to be very beneficial to my teaching later on. I learn more and further through teaching with references from Suhailaís techniques. It is a great preparation for bellydance but not limited to bellydance. You donít just bellydance with those techniques rather you develop your own bellydance on the foundation of those techniques.

I also enjoy Jamilaís finger cymbal classes very much. It is not only a great way to learn different patterns along with all kinds of steps and movements, it is also very challenging mentally: you have to be able to tell the transition between different patterns and do it very accurately and yet smoothly. It also helps me a lot to teach students the skills and application of finger cymbals with a larger provision out of bellydance. We try different dance movements with those finger cymbal patterns and we have a lot of fun doing it together. I think finger cymbal is not merely a prop or instrument attached to belly dance, it is an art itself.

Q: You have a troupe called DanceDivas.
J: DanceDivas is formed by me and my students who have learned with me for years. I think it is natural to have a troupe because performing is also part of our learning experiences and it is a very important part. Students enjoy learning dances on classes and they could have learned further and get inspired much through performing on stage. It is a different mind-set and we all enjoy it, which is essential to my faith- you have to enjoy it to do it, otherwise it is only a waste.

When we first formed the troupe, we were more into a fusion mood. We explored all possible fusion dance forms and different music. Now we are slightly more into oriental dance mood. I donít want to restrict my troupe members on specific styles or forms; so long as we stay with bellydance and together we could work out something particular belonging to DanceDivas.

Q: Whatís your future plan as a bellydancer?
J: Iíd like to stay with Suhaila technique Level 3 for now, while continuing to teach my students with further preparation techniques. I really enjoy teaching especially when students come to tell me that they feel a sense of progress from each class.

As I learn more from Suhaila, I think it is very important to share the technique and knowledge with local bellydance community. I think Suhaila technique is a great preparation and solid foundation for bellydance. With such foundation, we could have more freedom and imagination to develop something quite different and something only belonging to us. In addition, being at her workshops or classes is also a great encouraging way- you ďsurviveĒ the workshop and you become stronger both physically and mentally. It makes oneís mind-set more focused and generates a sense of self-achievement. Thatís another unexpected benefit to us, as dancers and human beings as well.

I hope some day I would invite the Salimpour family here to share energy and knowledge with my students and the local bellydance community.

Q: Thank you for accepting the interview, Jane.

Authorís note:

Shortly after this interview, Jane went to attend the 2008 Belly Dancer of the Universe Competitions in Long Beach, California. She is the first Taiwan bellydancer attending this world-renowned competition and she won in two categories: First runner up at Fusion category and Veil category respectively. Afterwards she was invited by Amira, one of the judges, to perform with her.


Jane and her troupe DanceDiva


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