Rockin’ the Casbah Notes: women’s gulf dance

In some ways this dance came together very easily and in other ways it was very difficult. The basic bones of the dance came out early on and made a consistent solid spine to build the dance on. Fleshing it out took a little more effort. Sometimes I have a choreography finished and then only have to set it on the dancers…teach them the dance and sort out the staging. With this dance, I brought the skeleton to rehearsal, and then built in the gaps and fleshed it out through trial and error with the dancers themselves. “Try this” and “let me see that” were common phrases they heard me say. I spent a lot of time with a stand-in dancer in my place on the floor (thanks, Nat!) while I moved around the dance, looking at it from the sides and the back. I would give the dancers a direction only to change my mind when I wasn’t satisfied with the result. I think this must be very frustrating for the dancers. But in a case like this, they are part of the process of creation, so frustration aside, they end up with more ownership in the end result. And maybe it is interesting to be involved in the process this way. Like living pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.
photo by Alistair Maitland The music was Sheloha Sheilah by the Miami Band. I love khaleegi women's dance. I love the aspect of it that is gentle and elegant and graceful and smooth. I also love the aspect of it that is wild abandon. For this piece I really wanted to capture the aspect of freedom and joy of movement in women's arabian gulf Alistair Maitland
In the 2nd half of the 2nd act, I needed to hide the band and was initially going to use the scrim. The decision was eventually made to lower the traveller curtain instead of the scrim…this played hugely to the advantage of this dance. The black velvet background of the curtain enhanced the richness of the colours of the thobes and lent a more intimate atmosphere than the scrim could have done.
These women’s dances of the Arabian Gulf region are jewels. I always feel as though I am dancing for these women who are not allowed to dance in public in their own countries. In a way, we are speaking for them – representing their voices to the world. I had a dilema in how to transition into this dance – I was already present on the stage… how would I get into the thobe? The idea of this dance being precious wouldn’t leave me, and so I just went with the flow of that thought. I put my thobe into a treasure chest which our MC placed center stage. I then came out and “found” it. Opened it. Discovered the thobe. This allowed the dancers to enter the stage as though coming to a party, dress me up and invite me into their dance. It felt very complete and full-circle to me.
photo: alistair maitland
One section of the dance in particular went through several incarnations. This was the “wall of thobes, cascade & pinwheel” Basically the middle section of the dance. The end result was stunning and worth the time & effort of discovery and practice.
photo: alistair maitland

1 comment

  1. Oooh, I’m so happy to see this from the front. On show night, I snuck out from behind the traveller and watched this dance from the wings. SOOOO stunning to see all the colours against the black backdrop!

I'd love to hear your thoughts!