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Gilded Serpent presents...
Morgana's Animal Magnetism
Interview with Morgana of Madrid
by Surreyya

Late one night while researching snakes and snake dancing, I stumbled upon a link to Morgana and Nieblas De Avalon Dance Company.  I'd heard of Morgana in my travels online in tribe.net and other internet surfing, but should have zigged when I zagged.  It's tragic that until late last year I'd skipped over such an amazing dancer.  I accept partial blame for not paying attention when I should have. However, I let myself be jaded by inferior products, excitement-free performances, and lack of content, personality and character in the recent emerging tribal/goth scene. Boy did I miss out on this one.

After seeing Morgana's Serpent Dance, where she embodies the personality of the serpent, I was hooked.  Any snake lovers or snake dancers will have a special appreciation for this piece. 

Style, technique, presence, performance, ambience, mood, attitude, emotion, choreography, improvisation, costuming - it's all a delicate balance of ingredients mixed into a pleasurable cocktail of sorts.

The hypnotic and mesmerizing flow of Rachel Brice with the softer beautiful grace and poise of Jill Parker and Rose Harden and equal parts of attitude, fire and passion - Morgana is the new drink on the menu, and she is really shaking things up.    Truly inspired, I reached out to get her take on things, and how this scene is emerging in her native Spain.  I found a warm, friendly soul, grounded and earthy and eager to shout across the pond!  

What was it like growing up the daughter of a dance instructor?  How has this helped or challenged you?
What inspired you to study martial arts at such an early age? 

I'll tell a story. When I was 6 or 7 years old, I tried one of my mother's jazz classes. It was so stressful for me being the teacher's daughter that I decided to do martial arts in the room next to my mother's class. The teacher was my uncle, but during the classes he treated me like he didn't know me.  This was very hard work but it was better for me. However, at home I used to disguise myself with my mother's dance clothes. At 15 years old, I won a dance contest in my city, and a Silver Medal - it was a surprise for my mother, because she had never seen me dancing other than in my room imitating Michael and Janet Jackson. (laugh)

What do you find most captivating about martial arts?

I love swords and scimitars. I have a collection of them. They feel powerful and dangerous.  Martial arts requires a lot of discipline and precise movements that I feel are great to combine with other activities like dancing.

What impact has it had on your dance?

I just try to combine the things I know how to do well. 'Oriental' is a word that is associated with China and Japan also. I thought that the mixture of the two cultures would compliment each other nicely. The weapons and the strong steps balance the elegant moves of belly dancing - Yin and Yang at the same time.

How did you come to discover eastern dance?

I studied modern dance and jazz dance, but I like to experiment with other activities. I tried tap dance, salsa, tango, and eastern dance for fun, and that conquered me. I had never imagined to be a professional of belly dance - it seems it was just part of my destiny.

Who is your favourite dancer and why? What did you find most interesting about it?

Of course in the tribal fusion style, I love Rachel Brice and the Indigo. Beautiful choreographies and precise movements, very clean and elegant, also different from others; they have their own style and way about them. Some of the dancers of Evolution DVD are great, too!

Why did you choose to make American Tribal Style your primary focus?

I began with an Egyptian teacher doing cabaret, but a friend of mine talked to me about the Amercian Tribal Style and its warrior attitude; the arm positions, the costumes, the isolations and the music were closer to my personality.

Who would you say are your strongest influences in Eastern or Tribal styles of dance and why?

My first teacher, Fathy Andrawis, showed me how to dance as a woman with elegance and technique.  In addition, I loved the style of Carolina Nericcio; her technique is really pure tribal. The companies are the Indigo, Ultra Gypsy, Desert Sin, and Domba! are also strong but different influences for me in tribal dance.

What do you feel about gothic belly dance and what trends in Eastern dance to you see emerging?

I think gothic belly dance is necessary to be. Belly dance is not only folklore, zills and being a 'One Thousand Nights princess".

Everything has its dark side. And there's a culture that needs to express the art dancing too - we call them "dark fairies." The purists always will see this style like a very modern invention, not like a real dance, but I know that a lot of people (some of my students, for instance) would have never began belly dancing if the "gothic" style didn't exist.

They want to have their own space in this artistic world. There's gothic literature, painting and so on - why not dancing? It grows slowly, but surely.

How is eastern dance viewed and accepted in Spain?

We have a good acceptance at this time. Belly dancers were badly considered some years ago, like showgirls or striptease dancers; now we are considered artists. I think the Shakira videos have helped us with this in some way - and there's something more that people can chose aside from ballet and flamenco. Girls or boys feel good with their body, they have fun and it's exotic. Tribal is taking off and gothic has just been born.

What are some of the viewpoints on Eastern dance in your community?

The purists of classical eastern dance, with Egyptian, cabaret or folkloric influences, are the strongest personalities. The classical eastern dancers mixing with other styles like flamenco, tango, etc. American Tribal Style dancers, are fewer in number than cabaret style. And as for gothic and tribal fusion, maybe it's just me, alone in the dark.kidding, but there are some dancers and troupes elsewhere coming out from the shadows.

How popular is this dance form in Spain compared to Flamenco or other popular dance styles?

Flamenco has a very strong influence in Spain, the most popular dance, although it comes from the southern part of the country. Now there are new companies that fuse flamenco with modern dance for the younger generations. Flamenco, ballet and modern dance has had the lion's share of dancing here in Spain. Belly dance and ballroom dance, for instance, were in second place, but now they're growing in popularity.

Tell us about the creative process in creating your choreography and image for the Serpent Dance video that is so highly regarded on youtube.

(smile) I was preparing the end of the course festival for my students. Each year I choose a story for the festival, last year the story was about a poet who missed his muse and he searched for her in the desert. As part of that story, I created a character that lived in the desert, a serpent, which transforms into a woman at night and guides the lost. That was my character in the youtube performance. I only thought one thing over and over: 'I have to be a snake, I have to be a snake' - so I watched documentaries about reptiles and imitated their moves. This choreography is very relaxing for me; I like feeling every muscle of my body in motion, like a snake.

How do you feel about the feedback you have received?

I'm astonished. I just made the choreography to fill the holes in my students' festival! A lot of people have asked me for the snake dance since then. For Halloween I did a gothic performance with a role moving as a cat, and that was the preferred part of the show. I'm thinking that maybe I have more abilities to move as an animal than a human.karma maybe?

How do you go about selecting music for your dance?

I waste many hours listening to music, and I chose favourite songs and set them aside. Sometimes I just don't know when I'll get to them, but know I'm going to use them for something some day. I feel like each song has its own soul, and it has to be shown as choreography.

What is your choreography process like?

I structure the song in rhythm beats on paper, and then I make notations if a violin sounds or somebody sings, etc. Then I improvise the song on my own, many times. And when I feel I find a part that always gels with the music I write it down in the paper. Very scientific method.

How do you recover from stumbling blocks when crafting your choreography?

Very easy. I have all the music saved in the computer, so if I have no time to think of new movements. I cut down the 'damned part' of the song with a music editor! (laughing)

How is it owning your own dance studio and dance company?

Very rewarding and very challenging at the same time. Most of my free time is dedicated to the school and the companies (I have two at the moment, so it's even more work) but I wouldn't change it for the world - they're simply an integral part of my life.

How is business and what was it like opening your own place?

We opened the school less than a year ago, so right now there are a lot of expenses, but the response of the people has been very positive. We have more students that I thought for the first year, and also a full 'waiting list'. However, I have no time for anything outside the business - no family, no holidays - I hope this will change because I'm exhausted! It's worthwhile in the meantime.

What are some of the challenges you have faced in this process?

We had to finish the construction work, that was very difficult, and you can imagine the tediousness of the boring legal papers and documents required.

What is the mission of Nieblas de Avalon Dance Company?

Irene and Victoria
First and foremost is to have fun. Also to offer a fusion tribal dance troupe here in Madrid, mixing modern dance with tribal. I have found three excellent girls and friends, Liz Santiago, Irene Ortiz and Victoria. They have great abilities and are hard workers. By the way, one of them comes from the USA!

What should we expect to see from them in 2007?

We are preparing a show, not so long, just an hour. I'm going to combine the two dance companies  - the boys of Excalibur Dance Company and the girls of Nieblas de Avalon. Also in the mix are two musicians, fire, gothic, funky and ethnic music. I'll tell you when it's finished (wink).

What are your goals for this new year?

First of all, finish the show. I believe Helm is coming to my school, and in Barcelona I have tentatively planned a show with Solace - dancing with them. Lots of travel throughout Europe is on the horizon for workshops in France, Germany, etc.

Any trips to the United States or workshops on the horizon?

I'd love to visit the US in 2008 or at the end of 2007.

What message or advice would you give to emerging dancers or ambitious students?

Be patient. Everything has a moment. There are a lot of blunders along the way, but it's worth it to be constant. Hard work, practicing and practicing, work on technique and feel with your heart every move you're doing.  There are three things that connect in dancing: mind, soul and body.  Something equally important: respect other dance mates, and always be a proper lady, no gossiping nor criticizing. And of course, don't give up your dreams.  


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Ready for more?
1-27-07 Mining for Gold in the Gilded Serpent Archives - List #1 Surreyya's Favorite Articles
I've compiled a list of articles that have inspired, influenced and enabled me to cross many intersections when arriving at a challenge.

10-12-06The Soltice Festival, Belly Dance in Spain- Part 2, Photos by Lynette
held June 23-26, 2006. Part Two- The Evening Show, Event organized by Maria Cresswell of Tribal Girona at Sanctuari Els Arcs, Girona, Spain. A medieval hostelry with a chapel, set in the beautiful volcanic natural park of La Garrotxa near the picturesque village of Santa Pau.

10-11-06 The Soltice Festival, Belly Dance in Spain- Part 1, Photos by Lynette
held June 23-26, 2006. Part One- Workshops and Setting, Event organized by Maria Cresswell of Tribal Girona at Sanctuari Els Arcs, Girona, Spain. A medieval hostelry with a chapel, set in the beautiful volcanic natural park of La Garrotxa near the picturesque village of Santa Pau.

3-12-07 Islamic Architecture by Michel Harris
Oil wealth, along with social and political change, has threatened Islamic culture and traditions. Therefore, many Muslim planners and architects are reacting to this invasion of Western culture by reasserting their Islamic heritage.

3-10-07 Belly Dance Workshops: Realistic Expectations by Eleyda Negrón
The difference between a Christmas gift and a workshop though, is that in the worse case scenario, you can always return your gift and change it for something else, but… What do you do with a workshop that didn’t suit you? It can become a waste of time and money for both ends.

3-8-07 Nakish- An inteview with "The Lady with the Eyes" by Sausan
I worked hardest for the dancers in San Francisco to wipe out the discrimination factor and to make sure that all cultures were included in the performance of this dance.

3-5-07 My Dance Career’s Dark Side: As seen through a fog of murky emotion by Najia Marlyz
Will recounting my dark stories help me to purge them? Should one forget those special moments of insult and bad human behavior that all performers face?

2-7-07 Sunday Photos PAGE 2-Carnival of Stars Photos by Michael Baxter
Event Sponsors Alexandria and Latifa November 11 & 12, 2006 Centennial Hall, Hayward, California

2-18-07 Its Not Your Grandmamma's Zar By Roxxanne Shelaby
Luckily at some point we hear the distinct rhythm for a Zar and follow the drumming right to the front door of an apartment house.

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