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The Evolution of Fusion with Marguerite

By Jennifer Tehani Sarreal


Every experience with Marguerite is magical. From watching her wal on la!!ers
of swor!s an! feeling the win! of her whirling to listening to her tales an! poetry on her
experiences in "nner Mongolia an! the Mi!!le East# she always leaves you captivate!.
$ne afternoon# while reflecting on this performing anthropologist%s achievements
in the realms of performance# culture an! spirituality# " ase! Marguerite &who " have
affectionately come to now as auntie' what hasnt (een written a(out her) *hat !o
people not now a(out her wor) *hat hasnt she share! a(out her experiences) " !i!
not want to write something along the lines of thematic plagiarism. +ie every writer# "
wante! to write a(out something uni,ue - or at the very least# from a new perspective. "t
was only minutes later# while sitting in the stu!y over a cup of tea with Marguerite# "
foun! myself feverishly taing notes &(oth on her wor!s an! a heavy list of research
awaiting me' into a fascinating worl! that existe!# to my surprise# not long ago.
"n our (elly !ance community to!ay# the wor!s tri(al an! fusion are
u(i,uitous. *ith new styles# costumes# movements an! events# it is har! to (elieve that
from a single form of tra!itional !ance emerges the myria! of creations we currently fin!
ourselves immerse! in every time we set foot onto festivals# spea with other !ancers an!
train with new teachers. /s " was intro!uce! to this exciting time when all this synergy
was first (eing experimente! with in our !ance community# " was simultaneously given a
glimpse of the story we sel!om hear a(out in the !ance worl!0 when the professional was
an amateur - when the (elly !ancer first met her hips.
1960 Belly Dance Goes Mainstream
From the 1234%s to the 1254%s# (elly !ancing (ecame an entirely new entity in the
worl! of performance art. 6p until then# (elly !ancing was always a si!eshow or 7ust an
opening act. "n the 12
th
century# (elly !ancing was a form of entertainment that
complemente! an array of other performers alongsi!e 7ugglers# singers# contortionists#
acro(ats an! musicians. /s it emerge! on the !ance scene as a form that coul! stan! on
its own# its (ranches of the !ance grew# as well as its popularity. Fusion# at this point#
was in its very (eginnings in the (elly !ance worl!. The 8erfumes of /ra(y &which is
still active to!ay'# first un!er the !irection of 9iane *e((er then /nahee!# (egan !oing
The Evolution of Fusion with Marguerite
By Jennifer Tehani Sarreal
fusion in the 1234%s. This was one of the first groups# if not the very first group to
experiment with (elly !ance fusion in Southern :alifornia.
1970 Folk Dance and Belly Dance
The 1254%s mare! the (eginning of Marguerite%s !ancing career. "n 125; she
too her first fol !ance classes &with Balan an! Turish rhythms' at <eselo Selo Fol
/rts :enter in /naheim. Many fol !ance coffee houses in the 54%s offere! classes in
various forms of ethnic !ance. =et !espite their popularity# they vanishe! (y the 12>4%s.
To!ay <eselo Selo# which means happy village# has relocate! to Fullerton since their
closing in /naheim.
/s we can !e!uce from her extensive repertoire of movement to!ay# Marguerite%s
training !i! not en! there. She (egan to tae line an! social !ance &inclu!ing ?ree an!
Turish improvisation' an! stu!ie! on an! off with various teachers inclu!ing Bora
$@o# whom# much lie Marguerite now# was a very versatile teacher# to say the least.
Bora $@o is a worl!Arenowne! teacher of Turish arts an! culture. Bative to Turey#
he is a !ancer# musician# architect# an! swimmer who represente! his country in the 1234
$lympic games in Come. "n 1253# $@o was involve! in the pro!uction of F$TEM
&the Fol Training an! E!ucation :enter of "stan(ul' that toure! the 6.S. !espite the antiA
Turish sentiments they constantly encountere! along the way. Marguerite%s teachers#
she states# .for the most part# were from the source - meaning they either traine! at or
were native to the country of their arts% origin.
The 1254%s was a time when artists were !oing Turish 2D> styling on the East
coast. /rtemis Mourat# a !ancer an! prolific writer &from the East'# !i! Turish 2D>
styling. To!ay# /lexan!ra Eing an! Ju!een &who are (oth in :alifornia' !o Turish 2D>
styling though it was not prevalent on the *est coast in the 1254%s.
"n the late 1254%s Marguerite stu!ie! with Fahtiem an! Feiru@ /ram. Fahtiem#
another worl!Arenowne! teacher an! performer is one of the worl!%s most illustrious
(elly !ancers to!ay. Feiru@ /ram# a performer who (egan her professional career in the
1234%s# was a pioneer in the worl! of Mi!!le Eastern !ance as she commence! the first
forAcre!it Mi!!le Eastern !ance class at the community college level# foun!e! a union for
The Evolution of Fusion with Marguerite
By Jennifer Tehani Sarreal
the protection of Southern :alifornian !ancers &which now has over one thousan!
mem(ers'# an! in 125F pro!uce! the first convention for Mi!!le Eastern !ancers. Both
Fahtiem an! Feiru@ /ram stu!ie! with "(rahim Bo((y Farrah &12F2A122>' who was a
master of $riental 9ance. Farrah was the first Mi!!le Eastern !ancer to (e awar!e! the
Cuth St. 9enis :horeographer /war! in 12>1 an! was the foun!erDpu(lisher of
/ra(es,ue Maga@ine - a maga@ine !e!icate! to international !ance.
For (elly !ancing in the 6nite! States# the 1254%s an! 12>4%s manifeste! a perio!
when people were very critical of unortho!ox styles of !ancing. "nnovators were not
recogni@e! in Southern :alifornia# an! were more successful in San Francisco an! Bew
=or. "t was in the 54%s an! >4%s that folloric fusion was slowly morphing into
/merican Tri(al Style &/TS' in the San Francisco area. There were very few (elly
!ancers in Southern :alifornia an! even less support for new emerging styles of !ance.
/n! though Marguerite was often tol! that her style of !ance was B$T (elly !ancingG
she too her first steps in her !ancing career performing to a violin an! accor!ion from
the (an! Ca!os &pronounce! rahA7ohs' with her exAhus(an! outsi!e on street corners in
:laremont for lunch an! spare change. /long with !ancing# she playe! percussion an!
sang fol songs. The singing an! costuming was anything (ut the stan!ar! for (elly
!ance in Southern :alifornia in the late 54%s (ecause of its heavy influence from ?ypsy
styling &which compose! of Fol# Balan# Turish an! /fghan styles'. Marguerite !i!
her own (len! of folloric inspire! (elly !ancing an! was the only one using that uni,ue
synergy.
1980 Big Changes in Middle Eastern Dance
*ith the transition from the 54%s to the >4%s came a transition in (oth aesthetic
an! stylistic appeal in Mi!!le Eastern !ance. Though the *est coast was once a(sor(e!
in Turish fol !ancing an! (elly !ancing as a seamless team# the style !ramatically
shifte! to Egyptian styling# which still !ominates as the most fre,uently stu!ie! an!
performe! style of $riental 9ance to!ay.
*ith the !awn of a new !eca!e# Marguerite%s activity in the !ance worl! (egan to
flourish. She (egan to stu!y with more teachers# inclu!ing 9ahlena &from the East coast'
The Evolution of Fusion with Marguerite
By Jennifer Tehani Sarreal
who was a ma7or !ance professional who regularly travele! to Egypt an! (rought the East
coast style to the *est. "n 12>1# Marguerite toure! Egypt with her exAhus(an! an! live!
in "srael for a year where she foun! wor regularly !ancing at a nightclu(. Shortly after#
Marguerite%s artistic en!eavors with the Biri Senti were (orn in 12>F when she invite! a
group to (e onstage with her at the San Marcos Cenaissance Faire. From then on# they
(egan !oing a form of tri(al performances &much !ifferent from to!ay%s /TS' together
which exhi(ite! elements of ca(aret# theater# follore# live animals &particularly snaes'#
/sian magic &influence! (y Japanese# East "n!ian an! :hinese cultures'# an! of course#
!ance. Eatlyn# a mem(er of the group# (rought in the magical ingre!ients of their shows
from her research at the Magic :astle on /sian street magic an! ceremonial performance.
"t was Eatlyn who first intro!uce! Marguerite to her signature la!!er of swor!s. The Biri
Senti# with mem(ers Eatlyn# Marguerite# Miran!a an! +illa performe! at Cenaissance
Fairs throughout :alifornia an! forme! a theater company calle! /ftermath. /ftermath%s
show# Trial (y Fire involve! a creation myth storyteller an! female heroine who
Marguerite humorously !escri(e! as Hena !oes magic.
Marguerite# still with the Biri Senti# wore! with June Jones an! the Bele!i
9ancers &three mem(ers of the Biri Senti also concurrently performe! with this
company' after stu!ying with Tonya# who is oneAhalf of the Tonya an! /tlantis motherA
an!A!aughter !uo that now pro!uce the annual Belly 9ancer of the 6niverse competitions
in +ong Beach. "n 12>I# Marguerite 7oine! the Bele!i 9ancers in the /ra(A/merican
/ssociation%s salute to the $lympic games in +os /ngeles.
The 12>4%s !emonstrate! a huge resistance to Turish music on the *est coast.
/s a result of the /rmenian genoci!e an! the large /rmenian community# the (oycott of
Turish music reache! its @enith in +os /ngeles. Magic +amp# Mount Eva an! other
popular /rmenian venues woul! not play Turish music - especially live. Some
/rmenian music was even !eeme! too Turish# an! /rmenian musicians were fire! for
playing it. Though this (oycott (egan over J4 years ago# it is still felt to!ay at many
nightclu(s an! other !ance venues# illustrating how while art can transcen! (oun!aries
an! !ifferences# it also reflects lifeK the two cannot (e separate!.
Marguerite !ance! at +ittle /rmenia that (ecame the Magic +amp# Mister :%s an!
Marraesh &which she wore! on an! off for ten years into the early 1224%s'. She 7oes
The Evolution of Fusion with Marguerite
By Jennifer Tehani Sarreal
a(out her long career at Marraesh# " wore! there for so long# " thought they were
going to stuff me an! put me out frontG
ate 1980!s " 1990!s #ri$aret " %#&
The late 12>4%s gave rise to new forms of fusion an! creativity inclu!ing0
tri(aret# a fusion of tri(al an! ca(aretK an! /merican Tri(al Style &/TS' (elly !ance#
which continues to evolve every !ay. /merican Tri(al Style is argua(ly the (iggest cra@e
in (elly !ance to!ay. *ith its stan!ar!i@e! (len! of synergy an! fusion# it has (ecome
the (asis for !ancers to create even more innovative movements an! styles. /TS has
(een attri(ute! (y many to the wor in folloric fusion (y John :ompton an! Jamila
Salimpour an! largely (y :arolena Bericcio# the !irector of Fat :hance Belly 9ance in
San Francisco.
*ith the genesis of /merican Tri(al Style# for the first time# came a shift in
performance focus in the (elly !ance worl!. 8erformers were no longer overly concerne!
a(out the au!ience# as they were engage! with the movements of their fellow tri(e
mem(ers. Tri(al%s innate flow from au!ience focus to tri(e focus has pro!uce! a very
!ifferent spectator experience0 completely 7uxtaposing that of the tra!itional au!ienceA
performer relationship. *atching /merican Tri(al Style taes the au!ience away from
feeling lie the performer is only performing for them# (ut rather witnessing the
connection an! sense of community the !ancers create together. The controversy of tri(al
with more ortho!ox performers an! spectators is that the au!ience feels forgotten. Many
tri(al performers will !isagree an! say it gives the au!ience a new perspective on
performance an! (rings the !ancers (ac to each other - !iffusing much of the
in!ivi!ualism that has (ecome a primary characteristic of !ance.
Belly !ancing has seen significant changes from the 1254%s to the 1224%s. These
(ig changes inclu!e! more Egyptian influence# /merican Tri(al Style as a stan!ar!i@e!
form of (elly !ancing an! more Coma rhythms &of the fol rhythms0 Coma 2D># ?ree
2D># Belly :a(aret 2D># Turish 2D>'. Coma rhythms survive! on the East coast over the
past three !eca!es# while they !ie! out in the *est.
The Evolution of Fusion with Marguerite
By Jennifer Tehani Sarreal
"n 12>># Marguerite too her first trip to Mongolia# where she con!ucte!
fiel!wor in /nthropology# !ance an! spirituality. There she collecte! music from
Mongolia an! :hina for the Biri Senti &she performe! with the Biri Senti until 122;'. "n
122;# Marguerite receive! her M/ in <isual /nthropology with a focus on follore#
mythology# fol me!icine an! psychotechnology &she receive! her (achelor%s !egree in
Fine /rt'. The following year# she (ecame a mem(er of the Magic :astle# furthering her
assets an! resources for more innovation an! creativity.
#oday F'sion is (ere to &tay
To!ay# Marguerite continues to tae her artistry to a new level. From numerous
presentations an! !emonstrations on !ance an! culture# to participating in festivals an!
events across the country an! a(roa!# she is constantly intriguing au!iences an! fellow
performers alie. "n J444# she con!ucte! a seminar on healing# !ance an! "nner
Mongolian Shamanism for Shahra@a!Ls School of 9ance in :ologne# ?ermany. She was
also in the first EEME9 &Evening of Experimental Mi!!le Eastern 9ance' shows in J444
an! J441# where she !i! 9ream of Tara a fusion piece with her hus(an! incorporating
elements of magic an! /sian sym(olism. "n J443# she (egan sponsoring Sacre! Source
$rigin Series# a series of seminars focusing on women%s spiritual practices involving
movement an! continues to (e an a!vocate of not only performance art# (ut the
un!erstan!ing of their cultures of origin as well.
/lthough Mi!!le Eastern !ance has un!ergone constant metamorphosis over the
past F4 to I4 years# the genre continues to transform every !ay. To!ay we see more
imagination put on stage than ever (efore# an! feel the refreshing expansion of the !ance
that gives current pioneers in the worl! of fusion the confi!ence to experiment in the
footsteps of those who have pave! the way for (elly !ancing to!ay.
/s a fusion !ancer with formal training in various worl! !ance forms inclu!ing
8olynesian# +atin# *est /frican# Filipino an! Mi!!le Eastern !anceK it is reassuring that
while there is much resistance to (len!ing an! experimenting in other !ance
communities# (elly !ance has (een an outlet to freely create &with all my training'
without 7u!gment# an! for the first time# a source of support. The uni,ue aspect of the
The Evolution of Fusion with Marguerite
By Jennifer Tehani Sarreal
evolving nature of Mi!!le Eastern !ance to!ay has (een its a(ility to not only transcen!
(o!y types# aesthetics# sin colors# languages an! styles# (ut also the (arriers create! (y
cultural affiliation. The Mi!!le Eastern !ance community has em(race! other cultures
an! styles as its own# sen!ing a message of soli!arity as human beings to the rest of the
worl! - that in of itself is a (eauty only true un!erstan!ing an! acceptance (etween
people can mae. "f we are not willing to em(race each other%s art forms# we will never
rise a(ove the fictitious (oun!aries that nothing (ut our own ignorance has create!.
This (eauty of (reaing (arriers an! (on!ing of peoples through !ance that we
see to!ay woul! not (e possi(le without the pioneers who have come (efore us. Even
more (eautiful is that the nature of true art is change# creativity an! growthK an! as long
as we strive to grow# connect an! accept each other%s forms of expression# we can (e
assure! that fusion will always (e here to stay.
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
MMarguerite woul! lie to personally invite people to sen! in what they remem(er from
these changing times in (elly !ance an! to start !ialogue a(out their experiences.