Myra Morris: Taking Dance to New Levels
By Rachel Price In DA Word (Vol. 7 Issue 3) November, 2002
“Life is sexy. Thank of the produce section of the supermarket. Think of a ripe red bell pepper. That is sexy,” Myra Morris said during a Wednesday night dance class. Myra has come across many people that are concerned that her form of dance is too sexy. She believes that belly dancing is indeed that, but many things are. As she said, “Fruit is sexy.” At 40 years of age, Myra is raising her two-year-old son and still manages to be sexy. When she dances, one can’t help but notice her large, gazing blue eyes. Depending on the dance and the music, she may have a huge smile, or a deep, captivating gaze. She can gyrate her hips to any beat, making her body look as if it was under water and you can see the waves rippling above her. It seems as though most of her dancing is as if she is under water, and she tells many of her students to envision they are moving through water so that the dance looks very smooth and has a perfect flow.
When a person is interested in hiring her dance company for an event, she assure them that her form of dance is ‘PG-13’ and suitable for children. She has seen that many people believe that belly dance is “the next best thing to stripping.” This is not true because belly dance is a very cultural experience that is derived from the Roma Gypsies, a nomadic tribe that migrated all through Europe and the Middle East.
Myra was born in San Francisco, California and spend her childhood in Santa Barbara. She lived in a community of people with bohemian lifestyles. They were philosophic and into alternative living. Myra’s grandfather was a famous philosopher who studied Zen Buddhism. Her younger brother, Michael, who has also grown up to be a perfomer. Song and dance were always a part of their family gatherings.
Myra said that everyone in her family wanted her to sing or do something other than dance. “I was always overweight,” implying that she didn’t have the figure of a dancer. She was encouraged to do something that would bring in more money. Her family was worried that the younger generations would not make enough money because the elders had lived off of their inheritances.
Myra has had many different jobs in her life, but has always come back to dance. She has been a receptionist for a law firm, a butcher, a seamstress and many other things. When she was 14, she became a dance aerobics instructor. During this time, she was also still performing a lot as a belly dancer. She danced in nightclubs for a long time and at 16 or 17, she joined her first dance company. They were aired on Japanese Television!
Myra decided to attend St. John’s College in Santa Fe after visiting a friend who attended. She had just been offered an audition at a ritzy restaurant with a singing staff when she received her acceptance letter. She decided to go to St. John’s. Myra decided that she was going to go on a more serious curriculum and sold her belly dancing garb and cut off her hair.
Myra fell in love with Santa Fe. She made costumes for the Santa Fe Opera and worked at La Casa Sena as a singing waitress. She taught aerobics at Santa Fe Spa, started a catering company and started a seamstress company. She continued her singing career as well as her dancing. One day, Myra received a call from Ottmar Liebert, a famous flamenco guitarist. He had heard of her and wanted to know if she would perform at a birthday party for his drummer. She agreed and danced at the party. After an incredible and magical jam session, Liebert invited Myra to go on tour with him as his opening act. She went on a tour for three months, performing a 20 minute solo for audiences of 24-40,000 people.
Myra had made a decision that, no matter what, she needed to dance. She had been living in her car just so that she could go on dancing. “It was more important to me than anything else,” she said. The tour with Liebert had made her feel recommitted. She started a dance company that performed many different forms of dance including Oriental belly dance, flamenco, and Zambra. After a disagreement, the group went separate ways.
A woman named Carolena Nericcio visited Santa Fe from San Francisco and inspired Myra to do Tribal style belly dance, which is performed in groups and is improvisational, structured by cues. Myra started the Mosaic Dance Company and rented a small space for a studio. After staying there for three years, Myra has moved into a much bigger space above Sage Bakehouse. She had a dream of the studio she wanted and after looking at 25 different spaces, finally found the one in her dream.
Today, Myra owns her own dance studio which supports many classes other than her own. Myra teaches about 12 classes a week. Her Oriental classes are belly dance that is mostly choreographed and usually performed solo. SEEDs® (Self-Esteem, Expression, Empowerment, and Education through Dance) is a program she recently created for teen girls to study with Myra for one year, free of charge. The class is held three days a week and is not only a Tribal dance class, but it also teaches drumming and life skills, such as balancing a checkbook and good body image. On top of everything else Myra also teaches a dance aerobic class five times a week.
Myra has two dance companies, Mosaic and Ahatti. These companies perform once a month at Cleopatra’s Café to live music by Darabukah, a Middle Eastern Band.
If you are interested in taking one of Myra’s classes, you can stop by the studio on the corner of Paseo de Peralta and Cerrillos upstairs from Sagehouse Bakery. Being Tribal Style classes are on Wednesday nights from 7-8.