Gainesville, Florida Concert September 1997


The show was held at the Gainesville Elks Lodge, the same place as the workshop, which made it convenient for the dancers, who were able to run through rehearsal without having to cart their costumes and belongings all over town. The room had a raised stage, but no curtain or backstage area, so the dancers entered either through the side of the room or up the center aisle, through the audience. The theme was folkloric dance – the Friday evening performance showcased the Orientale style.

It started off with our own Morocco doing the Guedra; it was a powerful performance and very much gave me the feeling of being present at a sacred ritual.

Next came Magda Min el Gabel, who danced a Candelabrum Dance.. If memory serves, she wore a gold beledi dress. She had rigged up a battery-powered candelabrum that used tiny light bulbs — not terribly traditional, I suppose, but with the tremendous advantage of not having to pick wax out of one’s hair… (Personally, I think folks would ‘ye done it this way to begin with had they had the technology available..!) Then a drum solo with the Sahnobar Dance Ensemble which was very nicely choreographed. This was followed by Sword Fantasy by Sahirrnee – an elegant dance and dancer!

The next piece was The Mystic’s Dream, by the Desert Dancers. This was a beautiful fantasy piece using Loreena McKennitt’s music – a cut from The Mask and Mirror, although I don’t remember which one… It was remarkable both the use of a veil as a screen behind which one dancer moved, creating a silhouette; and for a young girl who danced in front of the veil, the effect being that the shadow against the veil was the woman she would become — WOW!! Also notable was the next piece, a “fantasy Gypsy” tambourine dance by Sherifa El Bakkar which may or may not have ever had any true Romany precedents, but which was as fiery a piece as you could ever want! (And that black, red, and turquoise ruffled skirt — I want one!! )

Amani then treated us to a beautiful Danse Orientale piece, followed by Afet’s Egyptian Orientale; two graceful and talented dancers! Amani did a beautiful job despite a music mix-up that briefly delayed her performance. Afet’s sea-green costume beautifully enhanced her dance.

The first half of the show concluded with Tarik’s Moroccan Tea Tray Dance – he’s a terrific teacher & even better performer! He quite skillfully manipulated a tray full of lighted candles while executing faultless floor work — again, WOW!

The show continued with Raksaat Champs w’Amar’s Raqs al Asaya; this group took full advantage of the trip up to the stage to show off their drummer’s skills as he escorted them onto and back off the stage. They did a nice job and exited to a nice round of applause! Chandra of Damascus was up next with a Saudi Women’s Dance — as usual, Chandra is a terrific dancer as well as purveyor of dance goodies.

Troupe Arabesque did a very nice Dance Orientale and Cane duet; two short pieces that blended nicely into each other. Next came Jemeelah performing Raks Sharqui — a beautiful performance! After that came Sahara Silk, with a Folkloric Fantasy –these ladies reminded me of why we all love this dance — women of differing ages and sizes all moving to the rhythms and each bringing her own style of grace and beauty to create a harmonious whole. Then came a Moorish! Arabic dance performed by Leslie – a nicely done piece.

We were then treated to Dance for Yamir, by the Yamir Sisters; this was a skillfully done folkloric piece that nearly didn’t make it onstage, as their costumes went missing sometime between the workshop and the show. Fortunately, the vendors were all still there, & one of them was kind enough to lend a couple of beledi dresses for the show – a good thing too, as it would have been a pity to miss their dance.

The show ended with a duet by Morocco and Tarik, she in a green and gold dress and he in a darker green outfit that complemented hers. Either of these performers alone is worth the price of admission; to see them dance together, well — it was an honor and privilege!

Sometime toward the middle of the last half of the show, it hit me rather forcefully that very few of the dancers had used zills — certainly Aunty Rocky and Tarik made up for them, but … I still have to say that while in some cases they wouldn’t have been appropriate, it gets to be noticeable after awhile — not enough spices in the Baba Ganoosh, ya know??

All in all, it was a wonderful night of dance, and those of us who could still move after the workshop rose for a standing ovation for Rocky and Tarik, and also for Zarifa, who put it all together for us. We are fortunate that Zarifa has been able to bring dancers of Rocky’s and Tank’s standing to Gainesville, and even more fortunate that some of them don’t mind returning for a second visit!