Rockin’ the Casbah Notes: Dust & Feathers

Workshops are great places to get new music. I always like to buy the CD of music used by the visiting instructor. I’ve never bought one that didn’t make me want to jump up and dance.  A couple of years ago I attended a workshop with Tito of Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. He taught a dance with the Assaya to a piece of music that I immediately wanted to dance to. It opened with an energetic, surprising and cute travelling spin & cane lift done to an exuberant vocal “yaaaaahoo!” followed by a driving bass beat.  I loved that entrance! (I loved Tito and I loved the workshop, too! ) Anyway, about a year later I was invited to choreograph a piece and teach it to the MAD students at the Wood Street School.  I wanted to do a piece that would interest the boys as much as the girls. I also wanted up-tempo pop music to keep their interest for this, their first introduction to Middle Eastern Dance.  So I chose a cane dance … and I remembered that great piece of music that Tito had used for his cane workshop. And of course (are you surprised?) I used his fabulous opening with the travelling spin.

After that, the piece went through several incarnations before settling into something that I felt the troupe could add to their  repertoire. We performed it a couple of times, but not to large audiences. Since it was relatively unseen, I decided to incorporate it into Rockin the Casbah.

To stay with the loose theme of the 2nd Act (I the waitress am cleaning up & mysterious things keep happening), 2 dancers in aprons & feather dusters appear.  The two “maids” are dancing with feather dusters (instead of assayas) and I am dancing with a tray..  We made some adaptations to the original choreography to accommodate the new “canes” and tray. It was really cute. I wanted the girls’ outfits to be reminiscent of a 1950s housewife, so I sewed matching aprons for the three of us. I had them wrap all around to the back with a big ruffle so that the hip movements would be more visable. I also added some yellow trim across the top of the hip line for visual contrast. They wore their black dresses from Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps with flats on their feet and pearls around their necks. They were adorable and it was a lot of fun.

There are some definite challenges to dancing with feather dusters. High five to Valery & Amber for modifying them for easier twirling. You wouldn’t believe the wind resistance!  They added weights and took weights away until they each had just the right balance.

I like how you can see through to the wing in some of these photos. What goes on in the wings is food for another post, to be sure!

photos by Alistair Maitland

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