Valerie Watson, MFA

Mariella Morales, MS

Valerie Watson founded Alafia Dance Ensemble in 1995 in order to showcase the intricate beauty of Afro-Haitian dance and music. Professor of dance at the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) since 1980 and 3rd-generation Dunham dancer and teacher, Watson began the company with students in Afro-Haitian classes, a process that continues. For over 25 years Alafia Dance Ensemble has performed in many venues including The S.F. Ethnic Dance Festival, Haitian Flag Day Celebration, Great American Music Hall, Maitri’s Annual Fundraising Event, Konbit 2nd Annual Haitian Dance, Music and Arts Festival, CubaCaribe Festival of Dance and Music, Spring Inspiration, and CCSF Dance Concerts. 

Mariella has been studying dance for over 20 years. Her love for dances of the African Diaspora was due to her attendance at the School of the Arts in San Francisco where she was introduced to Dunham Technique and African Haitian. Mariella received her B.A. in Dance in 2007 and her M.S. in Kinesiology in 2012 at San Francisco State University.


Mariella has studied extensively under the direction of some of the great pioneers in dance. Among them is the late, great Katherine Dunham a true pioneer in Black Dance in America and dance anthropology. In 2013, Mariella became a Certified Dunham Technique Instructor.


Mariella's knowledge and expertise have been enhanced through study with the great Jean Leon Destine, a dancer with Dunham's original company and considered today as a natural treasure of Haitian culture. Mariella is currently a part time dance faculty at City College of San Francisco and Co-Artistic Director of Alafia Dance Ensemble. Mariella, a student of the City College of San Francisco Dance Department has been with ADE since 1997.


She has danced professionally with Aguas da Bahia directed by Tania Santiago (Brazil), Afoutayi Dance and Drum Ensemble directed by Djenane Saint Juste (Haiti), & Yabas directed by Dandha da Hora (Brazil). Mariella would like to acknowledge her mentor Valerie Watson as the most influential woman in her life.

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