Marguerite Thrives on Diversity

With Landmark Performances & a Video Release

By Catherine Cruzan (Katerina)


The sun sets on an intimate Long Beach coffee house as it does every Sunday, filled with an eager, milling crowd that spills out onto a walkway lined with chairs and canopied tables.  A belly dance CD has preempted the house music, and the Coffee Haven employees are rapidly filling orders.  The growing line of patrons ogling goodies at the counter is an even mix of local Long Beach residents, dance students and performing artists.  But on March 16, 2003, many have traveled further, anticipating this week’s featured performer in the Sunday Shimmy Showcase. 

The coffee bar stops serving.  They silence the music and dim the lights as the clamor in the room settles.  Marguerite steps into the center of a Persian rug.  She is encircled by an engrossed audience.  A shimmering gold veil draped about her body conceals tinkling coins as she slowly pivots, greeting each new face with a penetrating gaze.  She speaks softly of a fabled dancer of old.  Her voice builds as her tale unfolds.  Her gestures and articulation augment the drama, transforming the bustling coffee house into a quaint tavern located somewhere off the beaten, gypsy trail. 

She finishes her story to thunderous applause and poises herself.  The din subsides to hushed whispers.  The first notes of retro Arabic cabaret melody detonate an explosion of black skirts and auburn hair as Marguerite lunges into a spin with the fevered passion of a tornado.   Then she stops with an unwavering sharpness and lets her hair fall as her movement becomes sinuous.  She takes hold of the veil as the melody pervades, and glides with her arms outstretched, letting it soar.  Then she pauses to redirect it, filling the fabric with swirling life as the coins of her bra and belt send glittering patterns dancing across the ceiling, across walls, across rapt expressions.

Marguerite sweeps past and releases the veil.  It alights on the floor as she charges forward with controlled abandon, the ring of her finger cymbals riding atop the beat of the drums.  She abruptly halts beside a blushing admirer and delays to smile playfully.  Then, with a flippant toss of hair, she turns to tease another with a shimmy – hip lock – shimmy – drop.  However, his affection is not easily won.  He endeavors to retain his solemnity, but Marguerite is not deterred.  She continues to toy with him until a smile breaks on his face, and his laughter resonates with the applause of his friends.  To each in turn she circles and dances and crisscrosses the room, enticing the unsuspecting, engaging them on a primal level, drawing them out of their routine lives.  

*  *  *

Flash forward to March 29, 2003.  The Yuvalron Ensemble is performing the sacred music of Judaism, Sufism and the Armenian Church at the Inter-Faith Concert for Peace at the Topanga Christian Fellowship Church in Topanga Canyon.  Unfortunately, their Sufi whirler, Aziz, is still in Istanbul.  Upon the recommendation of Melanie Kareem, Marguerite is chosen to be one of Yuval’s guests in his stead.  She will share this honor with musicians of spiritual music that have hosted performers like Omar Faruk Tekbilek and VAS in the past.  Tonight, Najwa Gibran will sing with Marguerite’s designated piece.




As Yuval picks up his saz and begins to play, an unassuming figure walks gently onto the stage.  She is unadorned and dressed in a ghwazee coat made from silk she found in Jerusalem many years ago – saffron and black, accented with maroon, with an embroidered white shirt.  Marguerite reaches her mark and faces the audience while the song gradually unfolds.  She crosses her arms at her chest with a respectful bow that lets her hair fall to touch the floor.  Then she slowly begins to turn to her left, keeping with the careful, measured rhythm.  A musical cue indicates a mild increase of cadence.  Marguerite answers in a like manner with a gesture to the audience – hands outstretched – and a smooth increase in speed.  Again, Yuval gives his musical cue, and there is a new gesture, a new tempo.  There are seven such musical cues, seven such gestures, seven points of escalation as the stroke of the melody grows – seven, because that is a special number in Sufi philosophy, revered by poetic Sufi souls.  It will take over ten minutes for this movement to meticulously develop from conception to close. 

At the pinnacle of her whirling, Marguerite has become a hypnotic, meditative force with her auburn hair soaring, her skirts and ghwazee coat billowing, encircling her in a cocoon of warm, saffron fire.  Her feminine strength is controlled – tempered by a delicate, deferential grace.  Her left arm reaches up to the heavens; her right arm grounds her to the earth.  As the music swells, she lures the energy in the room.  You can feel it expand with the tempo, feel it pulse with the beat, until the culmination of her prayer when she stops dead – without falter – with her arms outstretched in offering back to the audience.  Then she bows and softly exits the stage. 

*  *  *

It is versatility that distinguishes Marguerite as a world-class performer of contemporary dance Orientale.  Diversity is her forte.  She draws from abundant sources, both old and new, and is a pioneer in the art of creative mixture of movement and style.  In fact, she is one of the first professionals to incorporate the “fusion” of alternative elements into modern Middle Eastern dance.  Her career is comprised of over twenty years of refined Oriental technique.  Coupled with a commanding stage presence and innovative vision, Marguerite’s ability to captivate her audience and leave them awestruck is formidable.

In the late 1970’s, Marguerite graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a bachelor’s degree in fine art and a minor in art history.  By the early 1980’s, she was immersed in her dance education and journeyed to the Middle East to live in the Negev Desert for over a year.  During her time there, she performed in nightclubs like the Moroccan-style Club Cleopatra in Jaffa, and at local cultural events.  She also taught classes in movement specifically designed for women at a Jewish community center, promoted by her benefactor, Ms. Ben-Meshi Shosh.

Marguerite began a six-year anthropological expedition through Asia in 1988, where she lived amongst local tribes, researching Shamanism for her graduate thesis.  Her sincere, grounded nature and unusual charm enabled her to penetrate the inner sanctums of the local healers and holy men and women, who allowed her to document rituals otherwise barred to Westerners for centuries.

After returning to the United States and receiving her master’s degree in cultural/visual anthropology in 1995, Marguerite stepped to the forefront of performance art.  She began to emerge in the Greater Los Angeles belly dance scene, performing at local restaurants, nightclubs and belly dance events.  During this time, she also joined the Magic Castle, an exclusive magician’s club that requires an audition for membership. 

Marguerite has been highlighted as an author and a performer in various belly dance publications, such as The Belly Dance Book and Cymbal magazine.  She appeared on the cover of Jareeda in March of 2000, and published an article on transformational dance theory in Habibi, Volume 19, Number 2.  Her performances appear on widely acclaimed videos as well.  She can be seen in several IAMED productions: First Awards of Belly Dance, Third Awards of Belly Dance, Hollywood Babylon and Rockin’ the Casbah.  Her devotional fusion masterpiece, Dream of Tara, appears on Amara’s Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance #1.

Marguerite’s skill as a performer and a teacher of spinning techniques was recognized by Shahrazad of Cologne, Germany, who brought Marguerite to Europe to teach a seminar at her school of Middle Eastern dance in January of 2000.  Marguerite’s upcoming IAMED instructional video focuses on these techniques and is to be released in April of 2003.  It offers basic movement information, taught with detailed breakdown of turns and spins.  It also features two distinct performances – one folk and one cabaret.

As a distinguished world traveler, Marguerite incorporates her life experiences into her art.  It would be inaccurate to call her merely a belly dancer, because her background of experimentation marks her as a unique, multifaceted performer.  Her dance integrates provocative elements of theater, magic, Asian martial arts, modern dance, storytelling, singing and fantasy makeup and prosthetics.  She climbs ladders of sharp swords with her bare feet while balancing swords on her head.  She executes sinuous maneuvers with Angelo, her Burmese python, and together they do educational seminars for children regarding the treatment and care of misunderstood creatures – namely, reptiles and insects.  She often draws her husband Art onto the stage and into her moving stories, and she has graced the cover of Cymbal magazine dressed as a Middle Eastern man in 1986.

Yet, despite her sometimes outspoken and controversial musings, she is also a solid performer of traditional Middle Eastern dance, American, folk and gypsy styling, Raqs Sharki and modern Arabic-style cabaret. Worthy of the crowds she draws from miles away, Marguerite is arguably one of the most adaptable, multitalented performers of her era.  Her dance propels you into distant places and times, or it entertains you with flirtatiousness and humor.  Either way, she leaves you knowing that you’ve witnessed something divine.

Visit her website at for additional information on upcoming shows, classes, seminars and her new IAMED instructional video release.