Jennifer Shennan

Story by Harley Richards

Museum and Heritage Studies, 2016

Early Days

Born in Auckland, Jennifer Shennan found her passion for dance at a young age.

Upon leaving high school, she had to choose between her love for dance, and the desire to pursue further education. She ultimately chose higher education, however, she never strayed very far from the world of dance.

After completing her Master of Arts in Anthropology, Jennifer's thesis was followed up with a book in 1984 titled The Maori Action Song: Waiata a ringa, waiata kori, no whea tenei ahua hou?

The book, focusing on the traditions and practices of Māori dance and music, is still in print to this day.

Jennifer's work at Victoria

Jennifer has been incredibly influential in the world of dance since the mid-1970s. She taught here at the School of Music alongside her husband Allan Thomas, an ethnomusicologist.

At Victoria, she taught Pacific Dance Studies, and contributed to other programmes such as Theatre.

Ongoing Creative Legacies

Jennifer's creative influence can be seen in areas outside of her teaching role as well through her choreography for opera and drama.

Through her continuing support and involvement with the University, and teaching adult night classes, Jennifer shows her passion for lifelong learning.

When Jennifer isn't teaching, she publishes in various forms. She has published a wide array of edited collections, books, and dance reviews.

As if this weren't enough, Jennifer is also a trustee of The Long Hall, a community arts venue at Point Jerningham in Wellington. She is also a member of the First Smile Gamelan.

Jennifer's varied creative work at the University and around the city makes dance come alive. Her work shows that it is a vibrant form of communication.

Jennifer's work makes us believe in dance.


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