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Jennifer Tehani Sarreal began her dancing career at age 8 with her cousins in a dance group within the family. She started out doing small festivals with her cousins; performing Filipino folkdances, hip hop, and Polynesian shows. By her senior year in high school, she received the CAG (California Association for the Gifted) Grant for her senior project, which allowed her to produce and direct “Sarrealism 2002”. This project was a multicultural performing arts showcase featuring synergy of all the styles she had trained in thus far, as well as her own music (she had been playing the saxophone and flute since age 8, and had aspired to major in music at that time).
After her senior project, Jennifer’s passion for dance snowballed. Growing up in Long Beach, one of the most culturally diverse cities in the nation, she grew an even stronger affinity towards multicultural dance, their music and their derivatives.
TRAINING, AWARDS & PERFORMANCE - UNITED STATES
Today her dance repoirtoire includes the Polynesian dances, the International-style Ballroom and Latin dances at the silver level, Classical and Tribal Belly dance, Filipino and Muslim folkdances, street salsa, hip hop, and West African Dance. She has trained with and danced for groups/teachers such as Kanoe Barker, Ka Pa Hula O Hi’iaka, Manea, USA Dance (formerly USABDA), Angelika Nemeth, Rebecca Sorenson, Smokin Menehunes Band, Ron Brown at CSULB, Robert Cooper, the Tikiyaki Orchestra, the La Habra Ukulele Ensemble and most recently Bands & Bellies II (benefit concerts for the World March for Peace and Nonviolence).
She began Island Beat Entertainment in 2003 (now Dancing Tehani), and since has been involved with world dance entertainment and multidisciplinary cultural arts educational programs. In 2007, Dream Shapers added Dancing Tehani to their roster of performers.
In February 2008, with a broken tailbone and the emotional trauma of recently losing her father, Tehani decided to compete in the BDUC in memory of her dad (who had always encouraged her to dream big and follow through). She shortly became the 2008 Champion of the Fusion category at the Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition (a performance and choreography category based on the blending of other traditional dance forms with belly dance) as well as “Miss Congeniality” for her category.
At Yaa Halla: A Gathering of the Stars 2008 she received first runner up for People’s Choice in the Alternative Genre Star category.
Sarrealism 2009: Gallery Tribute to Josef Sarreal & Tradition & Fusion, A One-Woman Show debuted March 27, 2009
In October 2009, Tehani was nominated for Distinguished Artist of the Year through the Arts Council for Long Beach.
*All her performances are dedicated to her father, who was her unconditional best friend and loving supportive father.
TEACHING & PERFORMANCE HISTORY/HIGHLIGHTS
Jennifer Tehani has taught and performed for organizations and venues including:
Jennifer graduated from CSULB with a BA in Cultural Anthropology in May 2006 and hopes to continue her studies in Dance Anthropology at the graduate level. She is particularly interested in exploring the cross-cultural link between spirituality and movement as well as art and activism in our society at the graduate level
OTHER WORK - VOLUNTEER, COMMUNITY, HUMANITARIAN & ABROAD
In addition to dance, Jennifer Tehani Sarreal is very involved with the community and an active humanitarian. She has trained with NCCJ (National Conference for Community and Justice) in human relations education facilitation, which she has utilized to participate in facilitating fish bowl dialogues at CSULB and looks forward to educating the youth of the community about social and global issues today through the arts. She is the producer of the AFA: Artists for Action (formerly “AFH” in 2007) project which advocates the arts as well as humanitarian issues.
In August 2009, Tehani became certified as a Reiki Master through the American Reiki Academy by Reiki Master Alexandra Juliani, putting her in the direct lineage of Dr. Usui. She hopes to continue to help others and now initiate other practitioners through this healing art.
Jennifer Tehani Sarreal was crowned Miss Miagao-California in 2006 for raising money to rebuild the typhoon-stricken barrios of Miagao and send students to schools of higher education. In February 2007, she visited the Philippines for the first time where she was the Salakayan Festival Queen in Miagao, taught free dance workshops to high school students in Boracay and visited her father’s hometown of Cavite.
In the summer of 2006, she had her first experience being a camp counselor for mentally disabled adults at Camp-A-Lot, which is through the Arc of San Diego. She returned in 2009 to facilitate dance classes for both Camp-A-Lot and Camp-A-Little. Since 2011 she has volunteered for Camp Hollywood HEART, an organization for teens and young adults affected by HIV/AIDS.
Tehani is involved with multidisciplinary educational programs that not only promote awareness of the diverse art and culture of our world, but also globally conscious living. She conducts these presentations and residencies at schools, libraries and museums throughout California and abroad. She takes the most joy in working with organizations such as A Place Called Home (APCH), Theatre of Hearts, Stone Soup and Long Beach Community Action Partnership that take the arts to at-risk and high-risk youth who need an outlet of expression and a means of understanding one another. Through these programs, students see firsthand the transcendental power of building community and free expression through art.
She has also been sponsoring a child in Palay, India through CFCA (Christian Foundation for the Children and Aging) since 2003. She also enjoys spending time in the Caribbean where she has lived and done volunteer work with sea turtles for ANAI on the southern Caribbean side of Costa Rica.
In December 2009, Tehani will be taking her first around-the-world trip, where she will be learning, teaching and performing dance. In addition to dance, she will be volunteering on conservation and humanitarian causes (arts related and not) as well as doing Reiki and interviewing various artists who do social and humanitarian work through their art. The countries on her itinerary are: New Zealand, Thailand, India, Turkey, Belgium, France, Spain, Brazil, Peru and Costa Rica.
The Josef Sarreal Project (providing free arts programs to children around the world) will have its first general meeting in Spring 2010, after Sarreal returns from her around-the-world trip.
In Spring 2010 Tehani became a member of the steering committee for Fair Trade Long Beach, dedicated to establishing Long Beach as a certified fair trade city, and maintaining its integrity as an advocate for fair trade
In 2012 she joined the Board of Directors of CALB (the Cultural Alliance of Long Beach) a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Jennifer Tehani Sarreal is also a freelance writer. She has written articles for both the cultural dance magazines The Chronicles and Zaghareet!. The first focused on women’s traditional spiritual practices involving movement, the latter (a cover article) dealing with the history and evolution of dance fusion and what it represents in the Middle Eastern dance community today. Her experiences in the Philippines have also been published as a cover story in the EOP Newsletter at CSULB.
Tehani finished SARREAL VISIONS: Reflections & Journeys in the Fall of 2009. A meaningful collaboration with her father, and also her first published book, SARREAL VISIONS is available in both hardback and paperback in Spring 2010.
She edited and bounded a compilation of stories written by family and friends about her dad, Josef Sarreal in January 2009 (one year after his passing). Limited copies are available.
In April 2008 Jennifer temporarily joined the team of writers for Artivists.org, an organization promoting raised global consciousness through art and activism. They produce an annual international film festival that awards directors, organizations and celebrities for their progressive contributions to the world.
Current projects include a series of essays on performance art/activism and a handbook on performance.
She hopes to complete another article on art and activism based on interviews with international artists when she returns from her around-the-world trip in 2010.
Outside of dance, activism and writing, Tehani is a novice sailor, live portrait model, “retired” bartender (it was a very short career), musician and local volunteer. She enjoys: jam sessions, celebrations, improvisation, new places, vegan cooking, green living, Tai Chi Chih, Reiki, getting lost, interesting reading, world music, laughing ‘til it hurts, random forms of transportation (rickshaw, ATV, etc.), meditation, Margarita Mondays, looking at maps for long periods of time (strange, I know), Mother Earth, old rum, new foods, long road trips, playing the ukulele to strangers, listening to wise people/animals, adrenaline, tattoos/permanent body art, handwriting new letters to old friends, “hunting” vegetarian food trucks, slashing old t-shirts into beachwear, spontaneity, listening to Caetano with something warm to drink on a rainy day and... the best dog ever: Miss Bella Sarreal!