A Spiritual Connection – Lincoln Center, 1997

Morocco & the Casbah Dance Experience at the Bruno Walter Auditorium in Lincoln Center, June 23, 1997

I am a firm believer that dance is the only true religion. It reflects one’s connection with that which created us and the vehicle through which we can strengthen that connection.

The performance by AAMED Hall of Famer, Morocco, and her dance company, the Casbah Dance Experience further helped to confirm that belief. Through the various forms of expression, whether in ritualized form or self-expression, the message got across loud and clear: the culture lives on!

In Middle Eastern culture, as well as many of the other native cultures throughout the world, dance is very much a part of everyday life. It is a multi-faceted tool as it serves not only an entertainment function, but religious and educational ones as well.

This was evident in “Betrothal”, a story dance which combined folkloric and Oryantal 9/8 karshilima rhythm. The playful movements recount the story of three older sisters, Ajeeba, Leila, and Varvara, who gather around the youngest sister, Zanna Lanfray, in celebration of her engagement. The piece was a true delight to anyone who’s ever been in love and enjoys recalling the experience.

Dancing also to the 9/8 karshilama, Morocco portrayed the reality that many inner-city Istanbul Gypsies face. Imagine having to dance for a living and continually play the seductress role for busloads of tourists, day in and day out.

This woman is literally “fed up”. Yet, as if by magic, it is the music which frees her, taking her on a ride to another plane where she can let herself go. Her body responds to every note gradually blending with the music itself, as every movement takes her closer to her true self.

The music and excitement continued with Amina’s wonderful Oryantal or Raks Sharki, which is usually performed at Turkish home parties. Amina’s beautiful costume radiated colorful rays of blue, purple, violet and silver which glistened in the lights. Her impressive hip movements and changes from fast to slow gave the crowd a taste of the diversity of this exquisite Turkish dance.

And who said Oriental dance is only for women? Well, it isn’t. In fact, in various times of repression in public performances, when women were not allowed to participate, dances were performed by men dressed in women’s clothing, as well as men’s.

In a tribute to Mevlaneh, Jalaleddin al Rumi of Persia & later Turkey – the founder of the Mevlevi sect of Whirling Dervishes, Tarik abd el Malik demonstrated his ability to whirl himself away!

This dance is a path to enlightenment and is performed in religious rituals by the Mevlevi Dervishes of Konya, Turkey. Intense with intricate foorwork and technique, this piece added a more serious tone to the dance concert.

For the grand finale, both Morocco and Tarik joined to perform an Oryantal “salad.” With all the ingredients “just right”, from fast movements that imitate the heartbeat, the drumbeats of childbirth, life and death to gestures of marriage proposals.

One could not decide which part of the seven-course gourmet performance was more delicious. And not to mention the red-hot pepper zils: combinations which added more flavor and gusto to this spicy entree.

Every dance in itself was an occasion to celebrate the joy of simply being alive.

Thanks to Morocco and her dedication to present dance in its authentic form, us “modern” folks are able to partake in such a beautiful spiritual experience. We are brought closer to our true essence. What better way than to dance to music of life!