Choroegrapher’s Notes – the SYIDA connection

The initial idea for Rockin’ the Casbah came out of the challenge to create a new piece for the SYIDA show last June.  I have been fascinated by kitchen dances for a long time. You know…when you are by yourself and the music comes on, prompting you to stop emptying the dishwasher and just dance? Some of my best work comes out of the kitchen. So when the SYIDA call for artists came out, I decided to choreograph a “kitchen dance”. I chose a baladi taxim – a logical musical genre because the joyously improvisational nature of the music suits the joyuosly improvisational nature of kitchen dancing. And also because Yasmina Ramzy, a teacher who I greatly admire and aspire to emulate once paid me a great compliment when she called me “mama baladi”. Anyway, I digress. In my introduction of the dance I told the audience that it was my intention that this piece become part of a much larger body of work. And it has! It has morphed, to be sure. Creativity ebbs and flows, ideas change and grow, and one inspiration leads to another. What began as a little seed has germinated. Something I wanted to do someday (well actually 2 somethings) has finally spung forth in the form of “Rockin’ the Casbah”! So thank you, SYIDA! You gave me the push I needed to get started with it.

In 2009 we did a show called Raqs Farrah (the dance of happiness).  I brought up The Mediterranean Raqs Band with Saqra to provide the music. The entire show was live music, each piece choreographed by me for the dance troupe to recordings of the band.  Being my first live music show, it brought me many challenges and I learned a lot of lessons. Most importantly, I learned that I wanted to work with live music again. Well, I don’t have my own Middle Eastern  band, but I DO have access to a swing band!  And what do bellydance and big band have in common? Well, ME! They have me in common!

There are 8 new troupe works and 4 solo works of mine in this show. In addition, there will be 4 original solo works by ensemble dancers (Coreen, Amber, Nathalie & Andra). Some of the choreographies are to live Big Band and some are to traditional Middle Eastern music. Something for the purist and something for the fusion enthusiast. There are even musical-only numbers that feature the band and 2 pieces that pair up emerging vocal artist Fawn Fritzen with dancers. Something for everyone. Literally!

For me, this has been a tremendous creative effort that in many ways has felt quite effortless. I’m  not remembering, of course, the midnight marathos sessions where I couldn’t sleep for dancing. And I’m ignoring the current sleepless nights as we head into our heaviest pre-production rehearsal schedule. The anxiety of dancers missing critical rehearsals, the few pieces that aren’t coming together as easily as anticipated. But it doesn’t matter. Watching this show unfold rehearsal after rehearsal fills me with happy energy. Small pieces that fall into place every time we hit the dance floor inspire me. The act of creating has come easily this time. Each dance has its own character and seemed to write itself. I remember struggling to mold one piece… but no, it wanted to be something different. I remember actually talking out loud to it one day. “okay” says I to the universe in general, “You don’t want to be a skirt dance. What DO you want to be?” And voila! the body moved and pen hit paper and the dance was finished in an evening.

It seems pretty unlikely sometimes. Here I am – a very little fish treading water in a pretty big pond (by Whitehorse standards) and I have 16 musicians, 10 dancers, an actor, a stage assistant and 12 “extras” all doing my bidding. All buying into the story and sharing the dream – making the dream come alive. Pretty darn amazing, if you ask me. And I’m not done! My brain is teeming with ideas for future shows. I am not done, not by a long shot! Jump on and join me for the ride! And don’t miss the show! We’re gonna rock down the house!


  1. Aww, thanks for the shout-out, Nita!

    “And what do bellydance and big band have in common? Well, ME! They have me in common!”

    I love that — you are hilarious!

    Also: brilliant!

    Could I use any more exclamation marks for this comment?!?!?!!!!


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