Just had such a fabulous time at Morocco’s recent Weeklong that I can’t help sharing some high points.
Yes, for starters, I am one of those lucky people who lives in the NY area (Brooklyn, to be exact) so I get to enjoy Morocco’s classes year round. However, I have discovered in the past that nothing compares to a weeklong immersion in the dance with Morocco to create major breakthroughs in my growth as a dancer. Also, besides the advantage of intensive study with Morocco herself, she always manages to add excellent guest teachers to the roster to expand our working knowledge of the dance form. This time we were treated to 3 fabulous guest teachers: Tayyar Akdeniz, Atesh, and Joe Williams. And of course Tarik Sultan was on hand for warmups and a choreography of his own. We got to see them all perform in a gala Saturday evening kickoff show so we could see what we were in for!
Sunday after the warmup Tayyar Akdeniz, a Turkish folk dance specialist, taught Turkish Karsilama technique after which he had us all doing a Turkish line dance WITH spoons! After lunch, Atesh of Germany gave a whole new meaning to veil when she taught us a routine with novel moves that emphasized the fluidity of the transitions. In fact, she taught *none* of the same 4 or 5 basic veil moves that everyone seems to use in their veil routines. Refreshing!
Monday found us tackling Morocco’s most challenging choreography of this seminar, a lively new number by currently popular Egyptian singer Shireen. Correct posture and centered, relaxed movement are always emphasized in this studio, and this seminar was no exception: Morocco reminded us plenty. As usual, she fed us the choreography a phrase at a time and had us repeat the whole song from the beginning 4 times with each new phrase. Her unflagging enthusiasm and infectious joy in the dance energized us all to new levels to keep up with her. Well timed breaks and short stops for explanations gave us time to catch our breaths. By the time the day had reached end, we were intimate with the music and the movements (yes, we could dance it in our sleep.)
What always amazes me is Morocco’s ability to connect equally well with inexperienced and experienced dancers. She has an infallible instinct for where to stop and explain, and how to break down the moves. In addition, her choreographies are always so organic that transitions are effortless. Most who at first had doubts about “getting” the dance were competently getting through it by the end. Many of us even managed to handle all the shimmies and butt jiggles that she works in throughout the dance and are such a hallmark of her performances.
Tuesday was the day for the slow romantic piece, and while the moves were simple, Morocco emphasized the nuances of expression, as we danced with the emotional expressions of the singer instead of slavishly to the rhythm. She used this fluid piece to clarify technique in slow moves, particularly undulations.
The choreography only took the morning, and in the afternoon, we were treated to Joe Williams, who is an expert in the Delsarte technique. This very interesting theory of movement and body language has much to contribute to expression in dance. Joe showed us how simple movements and body language when added to a choreo could convey intense passion or emotion that connected with the audience. We all liked it so much, that some of us who did not have to rush for return flights home agreed for a few more dollars to a second session with Joe after the Friday review ended.
On Wednesday, Morocco taught a delightful Oriental Karsilama routine which was a perfect complement to the technique introduced earlier in the week by Tayyar Akdeniz. Morocco is herself an expert in this dance form, and her routine captured the essence of attitude and flirtatiousness that is often associated with this style. The routine seemed designed to make the 9/8 rhythm accessible to even the newbies in the room. My own concerns about mastering the rhythm (I’ve done little 9/8) disappeared about a third of the way into the routine.
Thursday it was Tarik’s turn to teach us a choreography, and he picked a kicky number to which he set a variety of shaabi moves. He took great pains to break down a few of the more difficult moves, drilling the room on them before adding them into the choreo. He also spent time on presentation and attitude as conveyed by posture and by relaxed but commanding arm positions. Fortunately, that day finished at 3 (intead of 3:30 or 4pm), a bit early so we could all run back to our rooms/homes to get ready for the evening party and our own performances!
It is true that the people who decide to take Morocco’s weeklong in January (the same progam as this just-completed August weeklong) will get something that we did *not* get: our Thursday evening club show. A good many of us were busy putting on our dance makeup in our respective rooms or homes when the lights went out! Most of us did not at the time realize what a huge blackout it was (Yes, THAT blackout, for those of you not in the Northeast) and some of us actually tried to make our way to the restaurant. Alas, the cases of lobster tails (among other food items) that Dino, the owner bought in preparation for the evening’s guests did not survive the (for him) 28 hours without electricity. And most of us got more sleep than we had intended that evening.
However, the next day, most of us made the best of the situation. Morocco’s fabulous studio has a large bank of windows, so we had light, and Tarik scoured the neighborhood for enough batteries to keep the boombox running. So before we did a review of all the dances, some of us performed the numbers we would have done the night before. Spirits were high, and everyone enjoyed this final opportunity to dance our new choreographies. A special treat at the weeklongs is always the extra time Morocco allows for students to ask questions. Her extensive knowledge of the dance and many related subjects is unparalleled, and we usually get to hear a few spicy and funny stories as well!
Goodbyes on Friday afternoon are always hard: some of us know each other well because we meet once a year at Morocco’s studio, an excellent place to forge friendships and develop fine dance technique. Once again I feel like I have acquired a new reference manual of movements, to say nothing of 5 useable routines! If you have never experienced a seminar with Morocco, and can at all manage it, I highly recommend studying with her at her weeklongs. Among the additional advantages of making it to NYC is the opportunity to study with Tarik Sultan. While it is quite well known what a fine dancer he is, the fact that he also shines as a talented teacher seems to be a well-kept secret. If you can’t get to NYC, try to catch Morocco wherever you can. It is worth the effort for some of the finest dance moments you will ever experience.
Yours in dance,