So to finally continue on our journey among the various cultures – Morocco here we come.

Confession time! I had a laugh at myself the other day when Jessica and I where chatting about the blogs and I was like. Let me do this series, I can work on my research skills and learn more about the very many cultures that form part of our very rich dance culture. I certainly didn’t realize how much information is out there!

Things I knew about Morocco:
Belly dance is called Chabbi and seen in the more cosmopolitan centres, there is a strong Spanish influence, which created the Andalusia style. The nomadic Tureg (Blue people are indigenous to the area).

Styles from the area that are often included under the belly dance genre:

  • Andalusia – wide skirts, group work, turns, graceful moving formations
  • Shikhat – dance that mimicks birth ritual, done mostly at weddings for fertility
  • Tunisian – north African group dance, with very earthy hip moves and stomps
  • Ouled nail – long skirts, very decorated costume from Algerian border

These short descriptions hardly do those dances justice. (Quite possibly something for us to return to later).

Berber (Nomadic Tribe) Styles that I’ve learnt about over the years:

  • Ahidous – singers and dancers form a large circle with the men and women standing alternately shoulder to shoulder. Sacred and secular influences are deeply linked in this ceremony. To the rhythm of tambourines, the men and women undulate and sing a joyful hymn.
  • Guerda – women dancers kneel and are completely covered with a black veil. The steady rhythm like a beating heart brings out the hands that describe vivid and expressive motions. The head is revealed, with eyes closed, swaying like a pendulum. The rhythm is supplied by a “guedra” or cooking pot (an earthware drum covered with skin). The singing of the spectators changes to brief and guttural cries. The dancer gradually casts off her veils and finally collapses in a heap. Purpose is seen as blessing.

I have learnt that:
Morocco has a stronger Arab influence than Spanish or French, there is a very rich culture of music and dance, that dance is part of even the most mundane activity.

THE FANTASIA has been held in Meknes since 1977 and is a stunning and exciting event that has taken its rightful place among the more noteworthy examples of traditional folklore in Morocco.

These demonstrations are of popular customs for which Morocco is famous. Lets unwrap this new knowledge a little further:

The Arabic invasion of Spain’s Iberian Peninsula in the early 8th century, created prime conditions for our Andalusian style (Spanish, Berber, Arabic, and Jewish influenced).
The musical style is attributed to a composer named Ziryab, from the 9th Century. This music was traditionally for court or state occasions, when Spain drove out the Arabs in the 15th Century, the music was spread throughout Morocco.

The many influence’s from nomadic tribes and from the Arab world has created a rich culture of varied dance styles. Music that carries expression from Politics to Social causes and even Religion. If you travel from the coastal towns, through the mountains and closer to the Sahara, the musical styles and rhythms change and undulate reflecting the tribal customs of the area.

Beside, the handful of dances I knew about. I learnt that every tribe, has their own special dance language. That this language celebrates even the most mundane of activities and providing a way for news and history to be shared, during festivals and at tribal gatherings.

The list of the various styles of tribal dances is 4 pages long (more things to add for later blogs)
To say that we have covered all the rich and diverse nature of dance in Morocco would be a huge injustice to the many cultures that are represented there. I hope, I’ve managed to cover those bits that have gotten included in our own dance art and shed a small amount of light on the rich culture of the area.
Look up Aunty Rocky, she is a noted “Oriental Dance Historian”
She has travelled in Morocco quite extensively and written many articles and even a book.

Melanie Wallis

Melanie started dancing and performing for Janka’s Oriental Dance Studio in 2006.  Under the mentorship of Janka Kliment, Melanie began her training to become an Oriental Dance teacher in 2008 and completed it under Asja Samia in 2011.  Melanie is also a certified health and fitness instructor.   Following Janka’s return to Slovakia in 2013, Melanie and Jessica chose to carry forward the vision of their friend and mentor.  They purchased the studio and continue to teach the art and beauty of the dance to all aspiring belly dancers.