Rockin’ the Casbah Notes: At Last

With every show I produce, I set myself a personal challenge. In Eshta it was to perform with the sword. In Under a Cairo Moon it was to choreograph a full original Raqs Sharqi. With this show, it was the piece “At Last.” This piece came hard to me, and it came as a challenge that I didn’t expect. I wanted to do a solo with Fawn accompanying me on vocals. We talked about music and I described the sort of piece I was looking for: a ballad, something soft and slow. A love song. She forwarded me a few songs to consider. This is a picture of Fawn singing in the show. Gorgeous!

I think At Last was the second one on the list. The Etta James recording. Oh my…it was love at first listen! This was my song! Or more accurately, the song said “this is my dancer.”

“This is my dancer. I will move her. I will touch her skin from the inside. I will sing and it will be her heart singing. I will move and it will be her heart, moving. I will bend and she will sway. I will whisper and she will sigh. This is my dancer. I am her song.”

Like every relationship, we had some hard times. It wasn’t easy. I wanted to choreograph the piece. What does that mean? It means that I wanted to control it. I approached it like it was mine to mold. But I was wrong…I didn’t understand. It didn’t belong to me…I belonged to it.  I phoned and emailed back and forth with Fawn several times over the song selection. I’d tell her that I couldn’t choreograph to it. It just wasn’t working. Lets pick a new song. She kept saying “okay” and she’d make another suggestion, and then I’d say, “no, no – lets’ stick with it – I’ll just improvise if it won’t come together”. And that was the key. Every time I just put the music on and closed my eyes and danced, it came smooth and flowing. Then I’d start to choreograph & write out the phrases and the process would turn to thick sticky mud again. So I finally just gave in to it. I decided NOT to choreograph. I made a conscious decision. And that’s when the magic happened. Gradually, the piece became directed, structure began to emerge. Never consistent, but I began to trust the music and my body. And that trust did not fail me.

The piece I danced at the dress rehearsal was not the same piece I danced in the show. Personally, I think the dress rehearsal piece was the best work I’ve done with At Last. I felt totally connected with the music – like there was no separation between us. The music moved under my skin. The show night piece was great also – but for me, the dress rehearsal was when everything came together. The photos here are from the dress rehearsal.

Giving in to the music and my own emotional response to it was very difficult. This was the challenge in At Last. It is a big risk to expose yourself emotionally. You are vulnerable and instead of closing off and protecting that vulnerability, you have to offer it for others to see. It has to be real. It has to be unrehearsed and unaffected. It’s taking a risk. And it’s taking that risk that makes the piece resonate with the audience. It has to be real & it has to be honest.

At a lesson with Yasmina Ramzy in 2003, she suggested that I try to explore the sensual more. That I include “moments of uninhibited sensuality.” To allow a “restrained sexuality to peek through the cracks once in a while.”  It took me 8 years to take that risk.

I dedicated At Last to my husband of 30 years. I carried thoughts of him in my mind as I was performing. Fawn dedicated her vocal rendition to her husband Michael. 

I invited the audience inside in a very honest and heartfelt way. It worked for me, and from feedback that I continue to get, it appears to have worked for the audience as well.

photos by Alistair Maitland


  1. Hi Nita… I’m so glad Fawn posted the link to this, or I would have completely missed the chance to read it. It’s been a while since I’ve been heavily involved in the arts. To be honest, a lot of it felt contrived to me at the time. But this didn’t. You captured it in your words. You are a beautiful writer and I hope to see you dance some day soon!

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