Dance Review (Willamette Week)

Belly dance is also referred to as beladi, raks sharki and “Arabic dance”, but whatever it is called and wherever it is performed, excitement and honor attend the mention of one name. Morocco is probably the finest artist anywhere now interpreting this misunderstood, maligned and underenjoyed dance form.

The Romanian-born New Yorker´s appearance at Ferryman´s Inn in Vancouver, WA on Sept. 23 was presented in conjunction with a master class by Midnight Oasis – a cooperative of local belly dancers. As expected, her performance spread wonder throughout the auditorium, humbled even the most skilled of the many professionals present and must have brought a degree of chagrin to younger dancers with only a few years´ training in this difficult art.

The first of Morocco´s two lengthy selections, a rarely seen, 120-year-old candelabrum wedding dance, amply demonstrated her superb musicianship and absolute command of cabaret theater style. Morocco enjoys a reputation as one of Middle Eastern dance´s most respected scholars, and this disciplined understanding of the essential nature of her art form informs every hip quiver, facial expression and torso undulation. Perhaps a belly dancer´s most essential quality, though, is the ability to get inside music and translate it into physicality of the most sensuous and emotional kind. Morocco does this with a spontaneity that freshens the music and reinforces its sinuosity, and she does so with a seductive theatricality that could charm Godzilla.

Sporting a three-tiered candelabrum headdress that held a dozen or more barely flickering candles, she essayed the muscle-group isolations, rotations and pulsations, the drops, thrusts and sways associated with the ancient tradition of belly dance. The difference is that when Morocco dances, all common associations fly away and one is left with wonder at the sheer opulence of movement that flows ceaselessly from her magnificently sculpted dancer´s body. But though she is a technical virtuoso of the most disciplined kind, Morocco´s inner expressive spirit is the most impressive thing about her dancing.

This last quality came to the fore in her final offering, a typically sensuous Egyptian cabaret sizzler. Here she displayed not only perfectly centered movement and what a dancer would call “core expression”, but also her personal passion for communicating meaning through dance. She also tossed off shakes, quavers and quakes that could have been picked up by the seismograph at U.C. Berkeley.

On the same bill, 17 other performers, including a good male belly dancer, offered mostly exemplary artistry. Deena, an especially skilled local professional, was the best of the lot.