Jillanna enjoys belly dance as a teacher, choreographer, troupe director, event organizer, performer, and art historian. Her studies have focused on Lebanese Belly Dance; Egyptian Raqs Sharqi and Raqs Baladi; and Turkish Oriental. Styles she has studied (and continues to study) include Saudi Arabian, Tunisian, Moroccan, Persian… and more! As a professional artist, she creates visual and verbal art as well, and specializes in henna body art (mehndhi).
She earned her masters degree in art history at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, specializing in Modern Art. She also researched and studied African and Islamic Art. The graduate school awarded her a fellowship to further her work in African art. She earned her BA in Fine Arts at Amherst College, graduating summa cum laude. Her painting thesis (“Visceral Reality and Machine Dreams”) received highest honors.
Jillanna’s performance, visual, and verbal arts career spans nearly two decades, with numerous exhibitions, teaching opportunities, and events providing outlets for her vision and creativity.
Recent projects include collaboration in the Robin of the Forest theatrical production (Chattanooga, TN); performing and recording with Shock Theater (with her dancers, and as Vampira); on-going involvement with the Jewish Cultural Center of Chattanooga (teaching belly dance); and monthly performances at Portofino’s of East Ridge for Greek Night (dancing to live music by Grecian Echoes). She has also performed in film and video productions, including the film Peripheral by Ken Calloway; the film Dead Tired by Mark Fults; and the music video Soul’s Lament by Devora Clark.
Jillanna’s classes include cultural and historical context as well as technique and her original choreography. She helps students to recognize and move to rhythms and to understand the music of the Middle East, teaching and performing with finger cymbals and tambourine. She began study of music and rhythm at an early age, specializing in piano and flute. She continued to immerse herself in music while working for five years as a disc jockey at WREK 91.1 FM Atlanta, where she gained an extensive knowledge of all musical genres. An avid fan of a wide range of musical styles, Jillanna strives to understand the rhythms, styles, and influences of the artists whose music moves her to dance.
Jillanna has studied belly dance extensively and engaged in many workshops with excellent teachers, including Rose Champagne (her very first and most influential instructor), Sahra Saeeda (Journey through Egypt I certification); Karim Nagi, Emuna, Liora, Attar Mellea, Shifah, Mahsati Janan, Eva Cernik, Morocco, Alexia, Elizabeth Artemis Mourat, Leyla Jouvana, Mahmoud Reda, Jillina, Natalie Brown, & Gina, and continues her studies in Middle Eastern & North African dance, music, culture, language, and art. She counts Leyla Jouvana as her main mentor and inspiration.
Jillanna currently teaches belly dance at locations in Northwest Georgia, Southeast TN, and the Chattanooga area. She began teaching belly dance in 2002, and now teaches several classes every week (beginner through advanced level). She is passionate about her classes, creating choreography, organizing events, and directing her troupes. She is devoted to the women & girls in her classes and to the art of belly dance.