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Marguerite Kusuhara is a legendary dancer and woman of the world ... Literally.
Marguerite’s introduction to belly dance occurred at around age 13 when she was “blown away” by a Pakistani dancer. The Greek restaurant was in Sacramento and the solo improvisation dance impressed her “with its strength it allowed a woman.”
This was in the 1970’s when Marguerite was studying modern dance in junior high and beginning classes in folk dance at the coffee house, Veselo Selo in Anaheim, California and neighborhood belly dance classes with a dancer named Vakesha. Later, she studied with Feiruz Aram and Fahtiem. Her love of dance has never wavered.
Though she has studied many styles, she is still a fan of 1970’s improvisation to live music, of which she says, “I like the flexibility of it and the possibilities for theatrical adaption.”
Folkloric is still a favorite. And props? Marguerite is the “Queen of Swords,” for good reason. She explains,
“I started to use a sword/s and just kept going with them, developed something that was really unique in the belly dance world for a while. I've danced with 11 of them at one time and will keep you guessing how. But I started out balancing two, then 4, then found a way to work with 7 more.”
Have sword (s) will travel, as she teaches the art at “Secrets of the Sword” workshops. She still performs “anywhere and everywhere. Private or public venues.” Based in the South Bay Los Angeles area in California, she expertly dances with finger cymbals, a skill she instructs on a CD produced by Jerry Summers with notes. It also contains two originals pieces of music that was licensed and created for her. She also has an interesting "Spins and Turns" IAMED teaching DVD.
Through the years she has danced with dance troupes: June June Jones "The Beledi Dancers", “The Niri Senti Magicians" and currently, Robyn Friend's "Firuze,” and performed with a group she formed called Marguerite and Kumpania (she and three men). She has also been part of a mostly Arabic orchestra, Layali Zaman, as a percussionist.
What is the highlight of her dance career, so far?
“So many- don't think I have one highlight. I was at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on a paid gig that was a cultural event for Iranians. That knocks me out. Other highlights were dancing with John Bilezikjian, starting from the beginning of my belly dance career. Traveling with friends for performances, teaching and performing in China.”
Does she have fun stories to share?
“Dang- where to start? Hmm, My life in Asia? I'll pick one of many. Let's see, from a few years back ... I was playing and dancing with a small group at a party, paid, but informal - about 4 Arab guys- Syrians and Palestinians. I'm dressed, with a cover up on and ready to dance, playing riq. I did a few songs with that group, too. The oud player leans over and says in a low voice to me "Could you go see if I remembered to lock my car?" So I pass the riq to the guy on the other side of me, and then go check on things for him. He was a great friend, while he was sane. I come back, sit down, and his cousin passes the riq back to me and I start playing again. Then, the tabla (dumbec) player, his other crazy cousin, shouts to me "Could you go and get me some coffee?" It’s the details and the humor that make the day, really. I got myself a cup of coffee, too. I'm not sure whether too many people will understand why this is funny to me, but maybe they will... It's all sort of like Spinal Tap at some point. “
Marguerite is unique in the dance world because of the diversity of her experiences. She was one of the first dancers to work in theater with props. She has included cultural application and spiritual inquiry.
How has the dance evolved since she started?
“It's become stratified, configured, regimented. So many styles but also there is a strict adherence to some styles and even proscribed attitudes to various schools and styles. Transgression is not so easily forgiven. All of that never existed when I first started. Some good, some bad. “
What is her dance philosophy?
“The first part? Work hard, study, do well and take things seriously. Get paid, support what you do. That's part of it. The other part is to go deep. Into the feeling of things. Don't shy away from emotion in your dance. Have as many facets as possible. “
“Keep your word. Keep your mind and ears open. Don't stop moving. Look for what works for you. See how wide your horizons can stretch. Go deep, don't just scratch the surface. Travel if possible. Don't panic and always carry a towel.”
Nancy Loyan schuemann, Contributor: Nancy Loyan Schuemann (aka: Nailah) is a multi published writer and author by day and a Middle Eastern belly dance instructor and performer by night. For nearly ten years she was the Cleveland, Ohio and national belly dance examiner at the recently closed www.Examiner.com. Through the years, she has written for other dance publications, including Bellydance Chronicles. With a BSBA in Marketing, she has had careers in retail management, marketing, public relations and outside sales. All roads... (more...)