The great classical /ethnic dancer and dance scholar, La Meri, has commented: “The only reason for mastering technique is to make sure the body does not prevent the soul from expressing itself.”
A wonderful technique is so misvalued, slavishly worshipped, misunderstood and misapplied, LaMeri´s words bring a welcome and needed perspective.
Her words resounded in my ears right along witht the tones of the doumbek, oud and finger cymbals as I watched the great Middle-Eastern dancer, Morocco, perform in Tacoma a few weeks ago. To friends who had asked me about her I had described her as “the Baryshnikov of belly dancers”. Well, it would probably be more appropriate to say “the Cynthia Gregory of…..”, but you get the point.
Morocco is a technical virtuoso. To the point that you watch her with awe. But it is her inner dancing spirit that fills you with exhilaration and makes you most realize the greatness of her art. (And whole volumes could be written about the lack of appreciation in the West for Middle-Eastern dance and music.)
Morocco expresses her enobled and enobling artistic spirit with movement that flows opulently from the core of her beautifully contoured dancer´s body. Torso undulations, drops, thrusts and rotations of hips, isolations of pulsating movement in head or shoulders, and trembles, shakes and sways all emanate from a centered, rooted source. I have always thought of a dancer´s physical core as being the gateway through which the emotions come to manifest their psychic message in body movement. Morocco´s obvious intense love and respect for her dance form does a lot to allow her to show us all this “core expression”. Her strong, disciplined legs, her beautifully trained and supple torso muscles, her softly eloquent arms and hands and her absolute grasp of performance style do their part, too.
What else does she have going for her? Oh, just superb musicianship, a scholar´s exact understanding of the essential nature of her art and great beauty of form and face. Her veil work is simple and exemplary. She uses it not to display pretty material, as too many dancers do, but rather to enhance her movement and to extend imagery. Her costuming, though it bespeaks her charming showmanship, is another aspect of her body´s expressive concerns. I´m for getting Morocco back to Seattle soon.
Laurel Gray, Tahia Alibeck and Michelle Boucree, also danced on the program. They did so expertly and were also much admired by a discerning crowd. Seattle is fortunate in having these three and many other fine Middle-Eastern artists to watch.
(Performing Arts Journal By Dick Moore)