Marlene Pierce started dancing at the age of 3. She has danced alongside celebrities like John Travolta, studied dance in Madrid and now teaches dance in Lanzarote. When she signed a 6-month contract with a flamenco troupe going to Lanzarote, destiny had more in store for her than just dancing. Here she met her future husband.
The dancer Marlene Pierce feels equally at home in cowboy boots or a flamenco dress. Marlene, originally from San Diego, California, came to Lanzarote 21 years ago as part of a flamenco dance troupe. We met her at a photo shoot in an abandoned factory in La Santa. Marlene, who once danced alongside John Travolta, moved to Lanzarote after that first job. Not only did she fall in love with the island, she also met the man of her life here. Nowadays, the 57-year-old offers dance courses in Tías, passing on her love of dancing to her students. From flamenco to belly dancing, Irish, tap ... you can learn just about anything that has to do with music and movement.
When Marlene gets out of her Opel Astra, which bears the logo "Top Catz Dance", there is little indication that this is the expected flamenco dancer arriving. Yes, she is wearing makeup, false eyelashes, rouge on her cheeks, and dramatic dark red lipstick, but her clothes are much less flamboyant. Her cap reminds us of Gerd Dudenhöffer, the famous German cabaret artist, and her shirt and Birkenstocks make her appear casual rather than glamorous.
A flower gives a feminine air
After checking out the set and exchanging some preliminary ideas about the shoot, Marlene shows us the outfits she has brought. Looking into her suitcase, the dancer reveals a large variety of different flamenco costumes, from ruffled dresses and flower hair accessories to a man‘s costume in the style of an Andalusian equestrian. As Marlene gets ready for the first photos, her choice is the Andalusian costume combined with a 'sombrero Cordobés', a traditional Spanish felt hat, enhancing her masculine look. Only a flower set in her hair gives a contrasting, feminine air to her manly appearance. Within a few minutes, this previously casually dressed lady is a totally different woman. The transformation is complete when she strikes her first pose. Another step, arms spread out from her body, hat in hand, back arched deeply, radiating pride and strength, Marlene is really in her element. Photographer Cornelius is enchanted by her from the first moment and no one escapes the magic with which she breathes life into the old factory building.
Her next outfit fills the set with glamour. She is wearing a floor-length black dress with orange ruffles, complemented by shiny earrings set with stones which match the skirt. As she dances, her skirt swirls wildly through the air, reminding us of a fluttering fan.
Her diligence paid off
Her every movement has a precision that comes from years of training, beginning in her early childhood. She started dancing at the age of 3, taught by her mother, who owned a dance studio. She inherited her love of music from her father, who performed with a barbershop quartet. Her parents supported her in every way they could, and before Marlene got her driver’s license, her mum would drive her to Tijuana, Mexico, for flamenco classes from a Spanish dance teacher, despite the 2-hour queues to get back across the border. Marlene‘s diligence paid off: at the age of 25, she got a well-paid job as a dance teacher at the University of San Diego.
Her face brightens as she tells us about her performances with the San Diego Ballet in the Whoopi Goldberg Show. "I had done a solo flamenco dance, and then Whoopi called me back on stage. She tried to imitate my steps and movements, and then asked me to demonstrate the castanets, and after that, brought out her 'talking teeth'. Whoopi is such a funny, good-natured person that it was enormous fun to work with her."
Later she quit her job at the university, because she wanted to perform and travel more, and went to Los Angeles for 3 years. After some tough auditions, she appeared in movies such as Staying Alive with John Travolta.
She studied dance in Madrid in order to experience authentic flamenco and perfect her technique and style. During her studies she also took on jobs that took her all over Spain – not only to finance her studies, but also to do as much dancing as possible. Besides flamenco, her repertoire includes, to name but a few, tap dancing and belly dancing, as well as ballet, jazz, Hawaiian, Tahitian, African and salsa.
Constantly on the move
When she signed a 6-month contract with a Flamenco troupe going to Lanzarote, destiny had more in store for her than just dancing. Here she met her future husband, Wolf Dietrich Hager, who had come to the island years before, as a tourist, and fallen in love with the island. He is an artist who works with glass in his Arrecife workshop, Estudio 4. Marlene loves playing with words: joining her own first name and the middle name of her husband ... "I would be called Marlene Dietrich", she says, jokingly, referring to the iconic film star.
When she decided to stay on the island, she started her own show, The Scrambled Legs. Later she founded her business, Top Catz Dance. She describes that time as being paradisiacal – having lots of performances and shows, which kept her on the move constantly. Of course, there were difficulties during that time, but her love of what she was doing always outweighed everything. These days she still does shows with Kerry and Freya, her two "girls", as she affectionately refers to her dancers. In the show Alhambra they perform a variety of Spanish dances, both flamenco and classical, as well as some Oriental dances.
And The Kids‘ Show, choreographed by Marlene especially for children, is still popular 21 years on. At the beginning of the show she is wearing all the costumes, one on top of the other, so she starts out being as fat and round as the Michelin Man. She then takes off one costume after the other and each time appears, miraculously, in a new outfit.
During the summer months, Marlene performs in hotels all over the island, and in the winter months she receives bookings for weddings and Christmas parties. These days she also does charitable work, putting on shows to raise money for good causes such as animal shelters and foundations for blind children in Africa.
She now concentrates on offering dance courses for adults and children, teaching belly dancing, tap, Irish and, of course, flamenco. "My greatest pleasure is seeing my students improve", she says. And you really do believe her when she says how she looks forward to each lesson.
Marlene’s dance courses
Marlene teaches tap dance, flamenco,
sevillanas, Irish, and belly dancing. The classes take place in Tías, in the primary school
next to the police station. Anyone from age 3 upwards can take part. You can check times and availability with Marlene directly on
928 511 846 or mobile 662 116 415. Her email address is email@example.com,
and sher website is www.topcatzdance.com