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© 2013  Moria  Chappell  LLC   All  rights  reserved.  

They dined  on  mince,  and  slices  of  quince   Which  they  ate  with  a  runcible  spoon;   And  hand  in  hand,  on  the  edge  of  the  sand,   They  danced  by  the  light  of  the  moon.     Edward  Lear   The  Owl  and  the  Pussycat  

Moria Chappell


World renowned belly dancer, Moria Chappell, graces stages around the globe bringing the exquisite art of Tribal Fusion Bellydance to its utmost in elegance, darkness, and intensity of expression.

Tribal Fusion is an

musical instruments

eclectic expression of

connoting the

the moves and

essence of these

emotions born from

ancient cultures, an

the country and heart

American ear for

of the Middle East,

industrial rebellion is

and beyond. With an

then juxtaposed and

underpinning of the

layered atop, thereby

old, and the

weaving the

authentic, and by

cotemporary myth,

using the antique

styles, and beliefs of a

jewelry, textiles, and

modern era.

Moria creates a whimsical mixture of enchanting darkness by embodying the mythos of a modern industry and a forgotten ancestry. Her work is detailed and enigmatic, heralding from a childhood of Bohemian upbringing where value was placed on beauty and the truth of artistic expression. Ms. Chappell serves as the Artistic Director for the Tribal Fusion component of The Bellydance Superstars. Her responsibilities include the tribal choreographies as well as various group pieces inclusive of the entire cast.

I become   the   stars   and   the   moon.     I   become   the   lover  and  the  beloved.    I  become  the  victor  and  the   vanquished.    I  become  the  master   and  the  slave.    I   become   the   singer   and   the   song.     I   become   the   knower   and   the   known.     I   keep   on   dancing   then  it   is   the   eternal   dance   of   creation.     The   creator   and   creation  merge  into  one  wholeness  of  joy.    I  keep  on   dancing...and   dancing...and   dancing.     Until   there   is   only...the  dance.     Michael  Jackson  


FUSE Magazine

2012 The following is an interview with Moria by FUSE Magazine, the prestigious tribal fusion bellydance journal. The interview focused on Moria’s background.


Aloha Moria, Thank you so much!

FUSE: When you were in university, what were you getting your degree in?

I graduated magna cum laude with a degree in English from The University of California, but that is actually a very limiting description of what I studied.

together a degree. I studied as many different topics as what interested me: French, African Art, European Architecture, Anthropology,

I went through four

Archaeology, Marine

majors and an infinite

Science, Dance,

array of minors before

Theatre, Ancient

I finally graduated

Greek Philosophy and

with enough credits to

Mythology, Feminism,

fill two degrees and a

Journalism, etc.

minor, but only enough in one specific area to piece

I also headed the Humanities Outreach Program for students

volunteering to teach in underprivileged high schools in Anaheim, CA and was captain of the sailing team and headed Earth Day Festivals for CALpirg, and and and‌. I had my fingers in everything and was really searching for that one thing that could answer my questions. It sounds unusual, but bellydance answered a lot for me. So, after I graduated with a BA in English, I pursued bellydance as a career and a life path.

- Pr ess Re le ase UC Irvine: 36th Commencement Saturday, June 16, 2001 Attendance Estimated at 40,000 The featured speaker for the School of Humanities will be M o r i a C h a p p e l l , who will receive a bachelor's degree in English. Admitted to the Humanities Honors Program in her junior year at UCI, she will graduate Phi Beta Kappa and

magna cum laude.

First Bellydance Experience

FUSE: Where did you

My mother bellydanced when I was very

first see a belly dancer


and do you know now

One of my earliest memories is of throwing her

who she was or style

finger cymbals out the window of our upstairs

she was performing?

apartment because I liked the way the ching sounded when they hit the sidewalk below. But she never performed professionally, she just invited her friends over and they danced together in the living room. I loved it. But she didn’t continue and I didn’t see another bellydancer until 2000 when I was at a festival called Pennsic with my father. We would go each summer as a camping and bonding trip. It was at night around a fire with live drummers and a few dancers around the fire moving to the rhythms under the stars.

I was transfixed by a young dancer named Katrina. She had eyes like a cat and long black hair to her waste and moved her hips like nothing I’d ever seen and I wanted to do that! She had such effortless playfulness and sensuality in her movements. It was a turning point for me. I wanted my life to go where that kind of thing happens. All the books and politics and philosophies I’d been buried in were only useful in so much as they supported an idea of this living beautiful movement.

Ziah Ali & Awalim

FUSE: Your first belly

I moved back to

teacher had been a

dance teacher was

Atlanta, GA after I

wonderful Oriental

graduated UCI. My

style bellydancer

mother was living

named Gayle from

there and like most


Ziah Ali of Awalim in 2001, correct? How did you discover her

students fresh out of

and what was the

college I had no idea

most essential thing

where to go, so I went

she taught you?


So I learned the full spectrum: Tunisian, Egyptian, Turkish, Moroccan, Algerian,

I got an apartment

Indian, Flamenco,

downtown and

Romany and Persian

started taking classes

Fusion. The reason she

from Ziah first because

called it Fusion is

I wanted to learn

because she picked

finger cymbals and

and chose the

she was offering a six-

combinations she

week course on that.

liked, but then mixed

She was also

them with other styles

connected with

that she liked to

Pennsic and so there

compose a piece.

was a certain level of

None of her pieces

recognition and

were 100% anything

connection there. She

but each combination

teaches Tribal Fusion

was studied and

and so I learned quite

executed with

a bit about that

accuracy and

particular style, but her


So many times today Fusion is used as an excuse or a word to allow any way of moving to be classified as bellydance. This trend leads to bellydance confusion. What I admired about Ziah was that each of her moves was an actual bellydance move, but the regions from which they came were where she would mix and match to create the fusion. By doing this, her worked evoked a sense of ancient and authentic. She knew the lineage of almost every combination she used. I respect that because it keeps bellydance as the focus of the art and breaks down the taboo in the Middle East of mixing dances from the various regions there.

Make-up Artist

FUSE: Before you

Actually I was a

became a

professional dancer

professional dancer,

before I was a make-

you were a make-up

up artist.

artist? Can you tell

While performing with

me a little bit about

Ziah and Awalim I also


performed independently around Atlanta and the South East, and was making my living solely by teaching and performing bellydance. There was a beautiful school downtown called the Make-Up Directory with a teacher who taught high fashion make-up and hair. I would go to classes during the day and dance at night. I really just did this because it interested me.

I worked on a couple of sets, but then The Bellydance Superstars picked me up and I am lucky enough to be able to apply all that I learned to our stage shows. I had no idea at the time, but it was really a smart move because I’ve developed almost all of my face, hair, headdresses, and costuming based on concepts I learned through high fashion and runway school.

Bohemian Upbringing

FUSE: Tell me about your “bohemian upbringing.” Both my parents are from Beaufort, SC, a small town on the coast peopled with ancient oak trees and plantations on the bluff.

View of the bay from my Grandmother’s porch.

They rebelled from their small southern life and went to Woodstock, traveled through Mexico, got their degrees from New College and were both theatre actors and did summer stock. My uncle was an actor on WKRP in Cincinnati, and continues to tour well into his 70s as a one-man Mark Twain theatre act.

My parents were bohemian in that they wanted to opt for another way of living, another way of approaching life that brought nature and spirituality and depth psychology and creativity to the fore. They bought land in the forest in the Appalachian Mountains and built a house in the shape of a castle.

We had fires in the back yard every night and I grew up in costumes, dancing in the woods to the fireflies and crickets, under the stars, and with my family around. As a child you think everything going on around you is natural and normal and so for me it was. It wasn’t until I went out into the big world that I realized how truly rare my upbringing was.

I was designing costumes for my dolls and myself since I was born. I would go out into the woods and make dresses for my best friend and I from tree leaves. We’d parade out of the woods so proud and of course everyone laughed and I’d run in embarrassment back to my room where I’d think for a bit and then re-emerge in fairy wings and a moon and star circle skirt with my kitten on a satin pillow that my parents had stuffed with fur from Lancelot (a small, long-haired goat that Barnum and Baileys Circus surgically twisted its horns together to make it into a unicorn). So, yeah, my upbringing was unique to say the least.

“Dramatic Gopher”

FUSE: What is the

Oh, that was my sister.

But now people are

story behind the

We sometimes make

rediscovering the uses

fun of artists or

of plants and herbs

alternative people

and they sometimes

who take themselves

can become very

too seriously. We both

cocky and self-

grew up with a lot of

absorbed in their own

unique characters

idea of themselves as

and it’s really hard to

a shaman or a healer

shock either of us, but

or a mystic. Not to say

people sometimes are

anything disparaging

very proud of

about the craft of

something they’ve

herbology or the

done that seems

pursuit of esoteric

outrageous, like

knowledge, but the

baptizing themselves

ego behind such

naked in the full

knowledge is what

moonlight for their

makes us laugh.

“dramatic gopher”?

birthday in a river and then dressing up like Green Man to howl at the moon. That might seem unusual for most folks, but it’s kinda normal for where we came from.

So one day I showed her Dramatic Gopher on YouTube and we began mimicking it every time an actor, artist, therapist, dancer, or well really

My “dramatic look.”

My sister’s “dramatic look.”

anyone would try to brag about them selves with that snooty air. It became a common practice and so she filmed us doing it. I don’t know, I guess it keeps things in perspective for us. Nothing is new under the sun and there’s really no reason to become arrogant about anything. Just do what you love because you love it, no need for attitude, unless you’re a gopher. :)

Suhaila & Jamilla Salimpour

FUSE: Why did you

I had auditioned for The

Suhaila’s dance studio

decide to move to

Bellydance Superstars

for 3-9 hours every

San Francisco in

and made it.

single day for 6


Well, that terrified me and I thought I needed to ramp up my knowledge of the craft a lot more if I was to get up on stage and be associated with such a strong group.

months. Suhaila is a potent coach and will yell you right up onto your feet when you feel like you can’t go on and I needed that at the time. I needed a boot camp. I pushed myself and her

I went home, sold

and her group of

everything I owned

teachers pushed me

and moved to San

to sweaty tears almost

Francisco to study with

every day.

Suhaila and Jamilla Salimpour. I was in

It broke me and built me up and broke me

and was one of the more intense experiences of my dance career. I learned so very much and her approach to the body through bellydance transformed my understanding and teaching methodology. She allowed me to perform with Bal Anat, which was an incredible experience for me, and taught me how to approach choreography and the stage life. It was really the beginning of a whole new chapter of my dance career.

Miles Copeland & The Bellydance Superstars

FUSE: Within that same year, you joined the Belly Dance Super Stars—how did that come about? I auditioned for The Bellydance Superstars in January of 2005 and did my first performance with them in July 2005, and have been with them since. What got me from winning the audition to actually being a regular member of The Bellydance Superstars was my training with Suhaila before I joined the tour, and then my subsequent training with Rachel Brice, Mardi Love, and Sharon Kihara after I joined. The Tribal Ladies really took me in under their wing and transformed me in ways I would’ve never predicted. I’m very lucky that these women were my mothers.

Miles Copeland, the producer of The Bellydance Superstars, took a chance on me and has believed in me ever since, so really I owe all of my experience traveling the world, reaching out to so many women, and honing this craft to his investment and his commitment to bellydance. He’s a crazy artist just like the rest of us, and thank god he’s crazy enough to love bellydance as much as we do. :)

Odissi Dance

FUSE: I saw photos of you in India studying Odissi Dance—can you share about that experience: your inspiration to go, the school you chose, how long you were there, specifics about the training or area?

Odissi is a mulit-

to India. I think it’s so

thousand year old

ancient that it’s origins

dance that has been

have been long

handed from guru to

forgotten, but it is OLD

disciple since it’s

and from what I have


researched is the oldest

Hindu mythology says

dance form that has been

that Shiva and Parvati

passed on unbroken on

taught the original

the planet. It is the

dancers, but

grandmother of all dance

archaeology shows that

and for that reason alone

this dance existed

it is worth studying.

before the Aryans who brought Shiva worship

Beyond that there is a sacred geometry to the stance and combinations that are architecturally sound in that each shape has its own intrinsic stability in structure. This fascinates me.

Another amazing connection is

dance that you can feel when

that Odissi comes from Odisha, a

you practice it. The stomping

region in East India that is where

wakes something up inside of you

Tantrism, the Chakra system, Krisha

and reminds you of something

and Radha, the Geeta Govinda

long lost but never fully forgotten.

and Jugganaught come from.

It’s something that is difficult to

There are so many secrets of

explain because it is an

female knowledge held within this

experiencial knowledge.

Beyond that Odissi traveled north

if you look at ancient Odissi

from Odisha to Bangladesh then

ornamentation and compare it to

over to Thailand and Laos, down

ancient Hula costuming, it is strikingly

through Indonesia and out into the

similar. The islanders just used nature

Islands ultimately ending up in

to weave the headdresses, bark to

Hawaii. Ancient Hula sings the same

weave the sari like skirts, dog teeth to

songs as Odissi. It is a temple dance

create ankle bells and leaves to

that tells the stories of the gods and

create jewelry. It’s incredible.

And if that weren’t enough, there

“dancers” who were in fact the

is also a link between Odissi and

keepers of the martial knowledge

ancient martial arts that connects

and practiced and kept alive via

the Amazons of Socrates lore to

the jewelry that was stylized armor

Mongolia and Asia, traveling

and dance that was stylized

eventually to land in India finding

martial arts. That goes on to

home and protection in the

connect to things like Qui Gong

temples and the knowledge was

and archery. I could go on and

held safely by the temple

on…but I LOVE it all.

India is a powerful teacher and

school/library here in Olympia so

my experiences there ranged

that students can come and look

from some of the most joyful

at videos of the last temple

breakthroughs of my life and also

dancers describing their

some of the most horrible

experience in the temples,

experiences of my life. But it has

pictures of statues inside the

led me to find my teacher here in

temples that foreigners cannot go

Olympia, WA and she is wonderful

in to see, unedited stories that you

both as a scholar and a dancer.

don’t hear in India. It’s a labor of

We are working together now to

love and devotion and I’m so

create an ashram/dance

excited about it all.

Runway & Photo Model

FUSE: You were also a

I started modeling when

runway and photo

I was 12. Then I didn’t

model? When did you

grow any taller. ;) So

start doing this type of

that pretty much ended

work and what sort of

that. But I went to a

clothing/products did

modeling school and

you model? Do you still

did some runway work

do this type of work?

at a young age and it taught me a lot. It was a two-year program that taught me about make-up, photo shoots, runway technique and footwork, hair design, haute couture and business. So it was wonderful, but ultimately I was always more interested in performance and archetypal work in theatre. But it certainly added to my future career in dance.


FUSE: Your aesthetic is absolutely delicious— when you are costuming is there any certain goal you are hoping achieve for your look? Can you list any creative inspirations that fuel your designs (art movement/movie/place/time)? Thank you! :) I LOVE costuming. I learned so much from Mardi Love. She really is the impetus behind the whole esthetic of Tribal Bellydance Fusion that BDS brought to the global stage. Just watching her pick out things at an antique store was a lesson in seeing beauty in a new way.

Alphonse Mucha and really the whole Art Nouveau approach to jewelry, women, furniture, buildings drives a lot of my vision. I loved “Elf Quest” when I was little, so that comic book must’ve had an influence.

The hairstyles and jewelry from the statues of the 64 Yogini Temple of Haripur in Odisha, India continues to inspire me.

Orientalist paintings from the Middle East and Africa are another influence as well as haute couture and Cirque du Soleil.

I don’t usually have a specific THING in mind when I begin a costume. Typically I drape together fabric according to a certain color palette that I might have seen in a painting, out in nature, or on a runway. Then I drape tassels or beads or chains that I think furthers the color scheme. Often flowers, feathers, and yarn find their way in there. I don’t know where it’s going most of the time but I always know when the last stitch happens: there’s a point at which I stand back and say, that’s it, it’s perfect. Until that point I can take apart costumes over and over again but once I feel it’s happy, I never take another thing off of it. They exist on and on as if they are my children and when a new project comes up I start all over with different material. I’ve amassed quite a collection and they all live together in a giant trunk that barely closes. Costuming takes so so very long to create. Sewing is a slow process but it’s therapeutic and for me to wear what I have spent so much time with I feel like I am dancing with a partner on stage. I don’t feel like I’m dressing up, I feel like I’m reuniting with an old friend.

What were you going to be when you grew up?

FUSE: As a little girl, what

I think I told them I

I directed my mother

had you told your parents

was going to be a

on how to draw an

you were going to be


outfit that I wanted to

when you grew up? What were your favorite past times as a child?

I costumed as a child. I changed clothes five times a day. My parents’ friends gave them three trash bags full of old ballet costumes that their children had grown out of and I wore

make and then she’d help me put my hair just so. Then I’d run out with my friends and come home covered in dirt and mud. They just hosed me off and I’d go change costumes.

those everyday. I

My mother had me in

would only wear ballet

ballet, tap, jazz,

slippers even to school

gymnastics, clogging,

and out in the woods

swim team, and

though most of the

basketball everyday

time I was barefoot.

after school. So things

My mother and father made me costumes, my father taught me how to use a sewing machine and how to make a circle skirt.

haven’t really changed that much for me since I was little. :)

Soul Place

FUSE: You have been all over the world performing and teaching, is there a certain place in particular that really touched your soul? Why?

India is unique unto

India is one place I’ve

this planet.

been that is truly

It’s sad to say, but

different. There are

most of the world is

parts of India that I

becoming like

believe have not

America: streets and

changed since the

freeways are laid out

1500s and there are

the same, same fast

sages that look like

food restaurants,

they have not

same malls and

changed since the

brands, same cars,

last ice age.

similar jobs and economy and religions.

And you feel God there. I know that sounds clichÊ, but there is a presence in India that is bigger than you, and you are keenly aware of it no matter where you are. It’s life changing or maybe I should say perspective changing.

New Places

FUSE: Is there any

Zanzibar, Bali, and

place you have not

Angkor Wat, Vietnam

been that you are

and Indonesia.

still hoping to some

Each has a link to

day visit? Why?

ancient dance that I want to study.






FUSE: Where is "home" for you currently?

Olympia, Washington but I still travel more than half the year. So really “home� is wherever my suitcase is.

Visitors investigating my sister’s backyard in Olympia.

Classes & Projects

FUSE: Do you teach any regular classes or have any upcoming projects you would like to share about with Fuse readers?

I will be teaching with


Tamalyn Dallal at her

com and

Zanzibar retreat July of



What I am most

I will also be teaching

excited about these

extensively in Hong

days is opening my

Kong and Taipei this

Odissi teacher’s

spring and also

ashram up to

traveling to and

weeklong retreats in

teaching in Venezuela

August of 2013. Her

and Mexico.

name is Ratna Roy.

I think I teach in Switzerland in December of 2012, Germany in May, some other places that will be listed on

Favorite Aspect of Life

FUSE: What is your favorite aspect of your life (teaching, performing, traveling, etc.)? Why is this so important to you? All 3 and at the same time: each informs the other, fuels the other, and couldn’t exist without the other.

Dream Show

FUSE: If you could go to your dream show—where would it be and who (dead or alive) would be performing in the line up?

Isadora Duncan, Mata Hari, Martha Graham, Cleopatra, Scheherazade, Salome, Ganesha, all of the Apsaras, Aphrodite, Xena, Jessica Rabbit, Durga, and the Sugar Plum Fairy. They would all dance under the open sky in the center of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Dream Show: Isadora Duncan

Dream Show: Mata Hari

Dream Show: Martha Graham

Dream Show: Cleopatra

Reconstruction of Cleopatra’s face based on her authentic bust housed in the Altes Museum, Berlin (page to the left).

Dream Show: Scheherazade

Dream Show: Salome

Dream Show: Ganesha

Dream Show: Apsaras

Dream Show: Aphrodite

Dream Show: Xena

Dream Show: Jessica Rabbit

Dream Show: Durga

Dream Show: Sugar Plum Fairy

Dream Venue: Angkor Wat


I woke  up  on  my  roof  with  my  brothers   There's  a  whale  in  the  pool  with  my  mother   And  my  dad  paints  the  house  different  colors   Where  would  we  be,  if  we  couldn't  dream?     Jonas  Brothers  

Be who  you  are  and  say  what  you  feel   because  those  who  mind  don’t  matter   and  those  who  matter  don’t  mind.     Dr.  Seuss  

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