Moroccan Dance: Movement of the Spheres Act 1

June 10, 2017


Raks al Seniyya

On March 31, 2017 I hosted a spring celebration of dance performance at the beautiful Community Congregational Church of Tiburon accompanied by my student ensemble of “starlight dancers” Sunny, Loren, and Premila.

The program featured two suites of dance. The first one, inspired by my recent travels to Morocco, highlighted the beauty and embodied wisdom of women’s Moroccan dance.

The second act featured a creative multi-media movement montage inspired by the sacred traditions of Persian, Kurdish, and Turkish cultures.

Here are some program notes and photos from Act 1.

ACT 1: Moroccan Dance

Blessings of the Guedra

First stop on our journey, the desert sands of the Sahara, where the ancient blessing trance ritual called Guedra is part of community life among the Tuareg “Blue People”.

In this society it is the men who veil, for women’s intimate connection to the great mystery of life, absolves them from needing protection from troublesome jinn who invade the body through the mouth.

Women enjoy a great deal of freedom in Tuareg culture, and ancestral lineage is traced through the female line. Their ancestral founder, warrior Queen Tin Hinan speaks to a long history of women’s leadership in pre-Islamic North Africa.

During the Guedra blessing ceremony, the woman, or Guedra, enters the sacred circle of her community. She serves as channel to the spirit world, bringing in beneficial energy and sending blessings and healing through her hands out to her community.

Her face at first is covered, representing the darkness preceding spiritual knowledge. Seeking knowledge, she taps the fabric, and then like twinkling stars her hands emerge.

She acknowledges the unity of all, the 4 directions, heaven and earth, past and present. The rhythms and chants get faster as she falls into trance.

Guedra
 
Blessings of Chikhat

Blessings of the Chikhat

The shikhat are professional entertainers who perform for weddings and other family celebrations.

Through their provocative movements and loud singing, the audience is drawn up into the celebration.

The term chikhat is popularly defined as “women who don’t want men to tell them what to do”. They are autonomous and free of the social constraints of most Moroccan women. While occupying a subversive role in traditional Muslim society, the deeper intention of their performance is not just to entertain the guests.

As in other parts of the Arab world women dancing at weddings serves to bless the celebration with their fertility-inducing sexual potency. Above all, the dancer and the dance is a celebration of joy, abundance, and the creative life force.

Tea ceremony is an important aspect of everyday life in Morocco, and entertainers may dance with a tea platter on their head to show off their skills.

Raks al Seniyya
 
Tea Ceremony

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