At first glance, Jen appears to be a very young performer, but don’t be fooled. Jen’s youthful appearance belies the fact that she is a talented, focused and intelligent young woman. Jen is married, a graduate student at the University of Utah and a certified ATS instructor and dancer. Jen’s solo performance at December’s Hafla was fresh and executed skillfully. Jen brings a new, confident and light energy to tribal fusion, with an emphasis on the joy of performing and the beauty of the dance.

“Growing up, dance was always in the background because my father was Palestinian. But it was my mother that introduced me to belly dancing. We signed up for a class so we could have some time together and get some exercise. It wasn’t until I moved to Salt Lake and saw Fat Chance Belly Dance that I truly committed myself and became serious about dancing,” she says.

Jen moved to Salt Lake City eight years ago. She studied first with Thia and danced in Topaz and Wysteria, and then studied with Corrie Walker and danced with Kashmir and Black Pearls. Jen has also taken workshops from Rachel Brice, Cami Liddle and Zoe Jakes. Jen was certified as an ATS dancer by Carolena Nericcio in 2007.

“The vocabulary of ATS is immense. There are many intricacies involved that you don’t expect, like the hand movements floreos. They are based heavily on flamenco. Something that is considered Middle Eastern is rooted in Spanish dance,” Jen says.

“I love the camaraderie in ATS. It forces you to have interaction with your sister dancers. Because it is improv, you have to pay attention to them. You have to read their body language when you are performing. It is an incredible way to connect with someone else. ATS is at the core of being a good tribal fusion dancer. It all originates there.”

Jen currently performs with Barefoot Belly Dance, under the direction of LaRa Zorn. They are Salt Lake’s only fire tribal fusion troupe. The troupe includes Jen, LaRa and Amina.

“Barefoot Belly Dance is presenting the softer side of tribal fusion. We want to be more appealing to the feminine. We appreciate all forms of tribal, but we want to create Barefoot’s own style by engaging a lighter side of the dance,” Jen says.

You can see Jen dance with Barefoot Belly Dance at Belly Dance Spring Fest on March 7, Sand Storm on May 15 in Logan and Speak Through Dance 2009 on June 27.