It had been months since I had seen Morocco’s last show, the smaller venue back on that fateful night in January. That evening a seed had been planted in my head, I had to see Morocco’s 20th Anniversary Gala. So I anxiously awaited for April and the promised event. The evening of the Gala was windy and chilly. The ticket line stretched out the door and down the stairs. It was wonderful to see the huge community turn out for the Gala. I had no idea there were sooooo many of us! As we shuffled to our seats in the huge auditorium, we wondered what surprises the evening held for us.
The Master of Ceremonies that evening was the delightfully funny, Sabah Nissan, who introduced both halves of the evening, giving interesting background for each number and introducing the dancers. The first half of the evening was inspiring folkloric dances.
Starting off with the Tunisian Womens Dance performed by the Casbah Dance Experience, which consisted of four dancers: Zanna, Ajeeba, Varvara, and Anuja. They were wearing a costume called a milaya, which had an airy quality that accentuated the beautiful flow of the dance. I was a lively and joyful dance.
Next was something of a surprise. Ayshe presented a dance called Warrior Woman-Khatun. It balanced the grace and sensuality of the veil with the sharp masculine lines of the sword, both of whlch Ayshe used in provocatlve ways. The beauty of the performance came form the power of a warrior female, who still maintained her femininity and sensuality in this masculine style dance.
In sharp contrast, Nesrin, whose quiet, gentle style spoke volumes, danced an Orientale Solo.
Then the stage went dark, an otherworldly figure appeared, a gigantic bird, it seemed, with huge shimmering coppery wings that fluttered open, revealing the dancer Shakira. The dance appropriately called Wings, creating a hauntingly memorable moment
Then the lovely Rayhana performed Ghalbi Mala (What Happened to my Heart). This spirited and feisty dancer adorned in pink, moved smoothly and effortlessly across the floor filling up the space with her veil. Her dance forms were elegant, her lines graceful. Next, Tarik abdel Malik (now known as Tarik Sultan) performed a Moroccan tray dance, which brought ohs, aahs and zaghareets from the audience as he balanced a tray full of lit candles! Some of his more amazing feats of dexterity during this performance including shifting the tray from his head to his knees and back again! What moves! What flexibility!
A delightful treat folllowe next as Laurel Victoria Gray, in lavish blue and gold, performed an Uzbek dance. Her exquisite hand movements and gestures told a story and directed the dance.
Then Morocco performed the traditional Raks El Chemodan, an Egyptian wedding dance. Singing along and playing her zils magnificently, she showed her mastery of the dance while wearing a three tiered chemodan. She was the embodiment of fire and light with her beautiful fluid movements and graceful style. That performance in itself could have been the show stopper, but there was much more to follow.
Artemis Mourat’s incredible Rom a la Turca was a fantastic overview of Turkish style dancing. She is an amazing dancer full of energy and life. Her powerhouse performance energized the audience, who showed their enthusiasm.
Before we could catch our collective breath, the Casbah Dance Experience (Rayhana, Ananta, Ajeeba and Varvara) closed out the first half of the show with Raks Al Nasha’al: A Saudi Womens Dance. Each was elegantly adorned in a thobe al nasha’al. It was an extremely lively performance.
During a brief intermission, a touching, heart-felt award ceremony was conducted, at which point, Morocco honored three important women in her life: Marie Artesi, Nancy Osserman and her Mom.
Then the lull in the Gala was over and the second half of the evening called Raks Sharqi Salad started with the masterful artistry of Gamila El Masri. Known for her fantastic folkloric work, Gamila is a shaker extraordinaire with a wonderful sense of humor . In a dazzling pink and silver costume and a tiara(!), she filled the space with such wonderful energy and flare!
Quickly following was the crowd-pleaser Tarik abdel Malik (Tarik Sultan), who danced Ayla Taylha and Dakht II Mizmar. With his beautifully shaking, controlled internals, and incredible footwork, he presented an amazing performance. The crowd roared its approval!
The air crackled with energy when Morocco exploded onto the stage for Basboussa and Al Ain Moulayetein. Adorned in gold, her costume swished and swirled, filling the air about her with an aura golden beads. Her unbelievable control allowed us the opportunity to watch a ripple and shake travel throughout her body. Awe-inspiring!
In Oryantal Dansi a la Turca. Raks Sharqi Turkish style, Artemis Mourat took the stage like a fireball. The rise and fall of her veil was both delicate and strong, making the huge stage seem unbelievable small. She is always a pleasure to behold.
When one thinks Gypsy, its all about drama. Thats exactly what Laurel Victoria Gray delivered in her rousing performance Russian Gypsy It was all attitude and fire, amazingly presented and the audience ate it up and cheered for more.
The finale was a duet by Morocco and Tarik. To watch these two dance together is always a feast for the eyes. The beauty is seeing the male and female components of the dance in action together, comparing and contrasting each other.
There were some absolutely brilliant performances that night. It was incredibly important to have such a Gala presented on stage, the way an art form shoud be displayed. And while many of the dancers were able to bridge the distance between the stage and the audience, I did miss the intimacy of Morocco’s smaller shows: being drawn into the dance and sharing the moment with the dancers. But when the evening was over, I was still left feeling rejuvenated, inspired and proud to be a part of this art form.