Shines in her Hometown as a Ballet Dancer
Because she puts her heart into her Art

By Iride Aparicio

Portrait photo

SAN JOSÉ, CA— There is a saying that “Nobody is a prophet in her own home,” but Dancer/Trainer  SHANNON RENEE BYNUM is the exception.  Born and raised in San José, California, she attended schools in the the Bay Area, but upon returning from New York where she went to study at the JOFFREY BALLET AND AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE SCHOOLS and completed her training as ABT’s Certified teacher, she returned home to do the two things she loves: to dance and to teach others.

Looking like a “classical ballerina” and dancing with refinement, SHANNON debuted in Ballet San José, in 2006. Since then, she has danced in most Classical Ballets, among them:  Swan Lake, Giselle, A Mid Summer Nights Dream, The Nutcracker, Coppelia, Carmen, Don Quixote and  Cinderella, to name a few; interpreted many leading roles with different choreographers: Stevenson’s The Fairy Godmother in  Cinderella, Dennis Nahat’s Spain in his Nutcracker, Twyla Tharp’s  “That’s Life” inNine Sinatra Songs” and many solos, among them: The Lead ballerina in Paquita, Spain again in  Gabay’s productions’ of The Nutcracker, Swanhilda’s Friend in Dennis Nahat’s Copellia, and  the Gypsy Woman in Wes Chapman’s staging of Don Quixote. SHANNON also has a long Neo Classical Repertoire.

BYNUM dancing   Photo by: Francisco Preciado
BYNUM dancing   Photo by: Francisco Preciado

With the purpose to introduce our local talent to our multicultural readers, CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL interviewed SHANNON BYNUM during rehearsals before the February’s performance of BALLET SAN JOSÉ’s  2013-2014 Season program. We transcribe our interview as follows:

C.W.B.  Tell us something about dancing as a profession:

S.B.: “Dancing  is hard work, but I get to do what I wanted to do, and get to do it every day. As a dancer, and especially with my company (BSJ) where almost everybody is from another country and there are people from all over the world, I also get to learn other ways of expressing my art. As a teacher, dancing  (with BSJ) has taught me other ways to teach my young dancers. (her students) and responsibility,  because I am teaching the younger generation. I love dancing. It is an art that allows my soul to come out.”

C.W.B. How old were you when you started dancing?

S.B. Two and a half years old.  My mom says I was shy, very very shy, so she sent me to dancing school so I could meet other little girls and start talking. But going to school was easy for me because in dancing school you don’t have to talk much, just dance, so I loved it. It was something that my soul connected with. I loved it so much.”

C.W.B:  What in your opinion is the hardest part of  dancing professionally?

S. B.: The hardest part of dancing is the physical part. Dancing hurts, every day, (at times). When you are in Pointe Shoes all day, your feet hurt, your whole body hurts, but you have to learn to bare the pain, because you love your art so much.

C.W.B: What do you love most about dancing?

S.B. “I really love to connect with somebody in the audience. To be able to move somebody with the music, with the movements of my body. I have always loved to move and I have always loved music and when I dance, I have the two things I love put together. 

C.W.B. As a teacher and Trainer, what do you look for in your young dancing students?

S.B: “They have to have the height, that’s a requirement, and they have to have the  love for music and the  love for movement. I think that those two are important. If they have those two together, you can produce an artist. But the most important thing they need to have is love. The thing that I look for in my students in my studio is that they love dancing, because even when dancing is a physical art you have to have soul to be a good dancer.

C.W.B.  How old are your students?

S.B:  “They are from l0 years old to 13. I like them at that age because it is an age where they can decide if they want to become professional dancers. The ones that want to become dancers will stay, the ones that will not, will go. I hope than when they go they will continue loving the art. That in their lives they will always have the discipline that they learned, (learning to dance) and that they always have passion in what they do.  I know that not everyone of my students is going to become a professional dancer, but they can always become art supporters when they grow up.”


SHANNON during rehearsals    Photo by:   Francisco Preciado
SHANNON during rehearsals    Photo by:   Francisco Preciado

C.W.B. You have danced lots of roles in different ballets Which do you consider your favorite role?

S.B. “ I have so many to chose from that I hardly know which one I liked most because every time I dance a role I love it, so  becoming  the character is very easy for me, but I think my favorite role was the role of  “Fairy God Mother” in Cinderella.”

C.W.B   Why?

C.B “For me, she was special. In a way, the role combines the way I am as a teacher and the way I am with my family members and with my animals (loving). So the role was very organic to me, very natural, almost maternal. I felt it on the stage.

C.W.B.  Can you tell our  readers something about yourself as a person?

S.B:  “I am very close to my family. I have a  huge family of cousins and uncles and aunts and we are all very close. So I want them to know, specially my mom because she is my best friend, that it was through them that I learned to share all this love that I have. I also have “another family” in the dancers at Ballet San José where we are also very close. My artistic Director,  Jose Carreño, is incredible as a director. He has a lot of passion, a lot of soul. I am looking forward to grow (as a dancer) under his direction. As I said before, I am passionate about dancing. I think my heart is in it.”

SHANNON will be performing with Ballet San Jose during its three day program, at the Center for the Performing Arts on February 14,15,16.