Elegance and grace are alive and well. Both are embodied in Shaunelle’s nostalgic dance style. Formerly known as Sulrij, Shaunelle has been a participating member of the Wasatch Middle Eastern dance community for over 10 years. She first caught my eye at a MECDA show, performing her Twentieth Century Fox piece honoring the many unsung Egyptian dancers of 50 years ago. It was enchanting, lovely in its simplicity and unique.”I love the classic dancers and I love nostalgia. I found a video, Stars of Egypt, which had clips of unknown dancers from the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. [It was] called The Great Unknowns; they had been inspired by Hollywood movies. Their choreography seems more pure to me, innocent, fresh and more traditional than today’s Egyptian cabaret. It’s not as complicated,” Shaunelle said.Shaunelle began her love affair with belly dancing after watching Fat Chance Belly Dance at Liberty Park. “The colors, flying skirts, and intoxicating music was a mystical experience for me,” she said.

Shortly after Shaunelle began training with Kismet, she later went on to study with Zahirah and danced with Desert Orchid for three years before joining Blue Lotus Dance Collaborative. Other local teachers have included, Johanna of Ethnica School of Dance, Tamar of The Giza School of Dance, and Jamileh from Midnight Mirage. “Every dancer I see is my teacher,” Shaunelle explained. “Every dancer I have ever watched has taught me something valuable.”

Shaunelle is currently a member of Blue Lotus Dance Collaborative. “I just love Blue Lotus, and their refined dance style. Stephanie and Amanda’s classical choreography is elegant and innovative,” she said, “This troupe is, in every sense of the word, a collaboration. We all have a say from the costuming to the music. Dancing with these ladies is great fun.”

Shaunelle is a student at the University of Utah majoring in Art History and has found time to perform at festivals, restaurants and parties. As a part of the Utah Middle Eastern dance community she has this to say about her experiences: “I have made lifelong friends through belly dancing. It has been a tremendous confidence builder for me because I am a very shy person. The first time Zahira asked me to improvise a dance, I almost died on the spot. Today, I can dance at the drop of a hat. For me, it is always fun to go to events and see the people I know and love. Belly dancing is as much a social outlet in my life as well as an artistic expression.”

Shaunelle and The Blue Lotus Dance Collaborative will be performing at the Crystal and Ice Show on Fri., June 8, and the Utah Arts Festival on Thurs., June 21 and Sun., June 24.