Samia Pink“Ranee, that is not a maya, it is like this, now watch.”  It was with frustration that the co-director of the troupe I had just started said these words. In the weeks before I was excited, elated and proud.  I had only been dancing a few months and clearly did not have any knowledge (movement or history wise) of what I was doing, but I was a happy dancer!  I was asked to be part of this student troupe and I was going to learn.  I asked several questions. Are these the costumes they wear in the middle east? Can I dance to any music I want? Can I make up my own moves? As a student dancer this is what I thought: We wear harem pants or big skirts, we show our bellies and we dance to techno music.  Being the oddity I am, I began to research.  First I was going to take a workshop with another dance teacher.  Yes!

It was a Saturday.  I had signed up for two workshops.  The first was a Raks Sharki Choreography.  I feel in love with the music, the movement and the knowing that there was so much more to be learned.  I decided this choreography was going to be my first performance solo!  I purchased the music and practiced.  I bought my first costume which consisted of pink harem pants, a coin top and matching coin scarf.  My first solo was not at a restaurant, bookstore, stage, bar or assembly.  It was for my teacher and the co-director of the troupe.  I had asked them to watch me so they could see what I learned at this workshop.  I performed for them and didn’t skip a step.  The end result was clapping and praise. I was so happy that I had impressed my teachers. But things soon changed.

I continued going to dance class but the atmosphere was different.  My name would be called in troupe rehearsal several times to showcase what I was doing wrong.  “Bend you knees more Ranee.” “Your snake arms need to go like this.” “Ranee, that is not a maya, it is like this, now watch.”  I started feeling bad about my dancing.  No one else in class was getting corrected.  Was I really that bad? I would go home and cry that something I had loved so much was now making me miserable.  Mostly, I was sad because my teacher, who I thought the world of at the time, made me feel as though I should not dance. I thought to myself is she mad because I took a workshop from another teacher? I had to make a decision and move on. I quit the troupe and said goodbye but it was not the end of my dancing.  There was much more to come.

A Dancer’s Beginning

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His

Opened the shades last night
Saw you past the winter
Awake, alone with your song
Above all
Weeping through dried lips
Dead is everyone
Alive is everything
You're Alive

He sang till he dried
Played until he bleed
Asleep without sound
Sleeping is death

Stars came out
I sat outside his door
Covered with blankets 
Covered in snow

His voice raised above the killing clouds
The chilled air
Tears flow down my body
Tears until he stopped

Next night no light from his place
Door was open
Diliberate my footsteps
Hands tounched my face
Saw his deep eyes
Heard his voice say my name
Kissed his lips until light came
Then he was gone

Azrael or Simply Death

FB_IMG_1510176903988In a flowing black robe covering a skeletal frame and armed with a scythe, Death hides in the shadows with only one responsibility – taking your soul. The last breathe of life is either welcomed or feared. Your guide to the afterlife is neither a friend or foe. You may call it an angel, demon, Grim Reaper or simply Death. In the Hebrew bible, Death is named Azrael meaning “Gods helper”.  In Morocco, it is customary to bury the dead facing south towards Mecca in hopes that the fate of the soul will be determined on judgement day. Those who grieve will wear white, and the spirit will either enter heaven or hell. Then, a journey will begin. You will remember the past starting at birth, and relive every happiness, sadness, doubt, anger, pain and love. Will you have regret?

Who will Death take in Morocco?

 

 

Inspector Barnabas Abbas: Mystery in Morocco

Screenshot_2017-09-24-21-20-44-1After the apparent murder of one of Cairo’s visiting stars and current headliner of Majorelle Operetta, Inspector Barnabas Abbas heads to the theater to investigate (Inspector Barnabas prefers going by his first name). Formally a member of the Moroccan Royal Gendarmerie, Inspector Barnabas had an unfortunate accident while riding on horseback which has left him absent-minded along with short term memory loss. Just when you think he is about to solve a case something will easily distract him. And the one thing guaranteed to distract him the most is music! When he hears the beat of the tabla he can’t help but dance. Wiggling those hips and shimmying those shoulders he often uses his inspector cape or cane to break into a groove ( The Saidi rhythm is his favorite). Eager to solve the case and return to the Royal Gendarmerie he must prove himself and solve the murder.

Will Inspector Barnabas find himself at the right place at the right time? Will he solve the mystery or will he dance his last dance?

The Jeweled Serpent: Mystery in Morocco

FB_IMG_1504482237319-1.jpgThe Jeweled Serpent is as old as time itself. Slow and slithery. Quick and sharp. Seductive and sickening. Beautiful and hideous. Good and evil.  Mysterious. She is the protector of her master – the only one who can tame her double-edged sword. But even her master must be careful. Just as the Jinn, The Jeweled Serpent is a supernatural creature, but instead of the master holding a lamp – the master tames the beast with a flute. However, this is no ordinary flute.  It is the flute of the Egyptian God Ihy.  Ihy was the first child of Hathor (The goddess of music) and Ra (The sun-god).  Ihy was seen as a minor god which angered him so he created a flute to hypnotize all the snakes of Egypt including the feared Jeweled Serpent. This made the people of Egypt fear him and angered Hathor.  One night as Ihy slept, Hathor took his flute and tossed it so that it landed in the Mediterranean sea right next to shores of Morocco where it was found by Morocco’s first snake charmer. Since then every snake charmer knows the story but who is the one who now has the flute?

Who will be a victim of The Jeweled Serpent? Will it be an act of revenge or an accident?  Will the victim die or only be blinded? Who has Ihy’s flute? Will he or she be a victim too?

 

Leyla The Gitana: Mystery in Morocco

FB_IMG_1503443454589The beautiful Leyla is filled with beauty, passion and romance for dance.  Born in Spain, her daring style comes from her heritage. Leyla’s mother trained her from a young age in Flamenco, and being half of Arabic descent she also has a great love for the dances of the middle east. In fact, her father, Abdel Nour, is a well-known musician and composer across Northern Africa. There are high expectations for Leyla to create mesmerizing choreographed performances and keep Majorelle operetta the highlight of Marrakesh’s nightlife.  Leyla is known for her fiery personality both on and off the stage. Just as her mother was drawn to her father Abdel, Leyla is drawn to Hashim, one of the musicians.  As Leyla and Hashim become closer only one person can get in their way – Sabah.  Sabah is not just any ordinary dancer, she is the current queen of Cairo and has traveled to Morroco at the request of Leyla’s father to further entice the audience and become the new headliner. Sabah has a demanding personality and is very flirtatious, especially with Hashim. When Hashim seems to aknowledge and return Sabah’s advances Leyla is heartbroken.

Will Leyla use her heartbreak to advance her artistry or will her heartbreak turn to rage and death?

 

 

 

Zophie The Betrayer: Mystery in Morocco

FB_IMG_1504495398791Zophie comes from the Askali, Romani family.  A family that is cursed.  As Persian folklore states, the Romani family is doomed to roam the earth, unable to find peace, due to their greed.  The great King had once given the Romani family prized horses to travel and provide entertainment among the poor, but instead, the family drowned themselves in wine and left the horses to nearly starve. Upset by this, the king had a powerful Sihir place a curse among the family.  Zophie, the eldest daughter of the family and a fortune-teller, has grown tired of wandering.  One night, while her family is sleeping, Zophie tries to escape. She is caught by her younger sister and they quarrel. Overcome by the power of Zophie, the younger sister falls. In a panic, Zophie escapes leaving her injured sister.  Unknowing to what fate has brought her sister, Zophie, claiming a new identity as Sophia, finds herself a home in Morocco and at Majorelle Operetta, the heart of entertainment in Marrakesh. Known for her incredible balance she performs a tea-tray dance with fire.

Zophie becomes the first suspect in the murder. Was Zophie suspicious that the dead dancer knew her true identity? Is she the killer? Will her true identity be revealed? Or can she escape her families curse?

 

Nafay’s Casino Cabaret Characters

NafayBawdy and brilliant, Nafay has a knack for business.  She is the owner of Casino Cabaret also known as Queen Nafay’s Casino.  Nafay grew up as the only female in the family along side two older brothers and her father who raised them.  Her mother passed from an unknown cause while Nafay and her brothers were very young leaving Nafay to become more dependent from her older brothers and learn the family textile business.  The business was successful and at its peak toward the end of the Ottoman Empire, when robbers stole and vandalized the business, burning it to the ground.  This led her father into a deep depression and eventually death. Nafay, then nearing her early twenties, became more independent and started acting and dancing.  Eventually, once again working with one of her brother’s, she opens a casino that will cater mainly to Europeans and the Western World heavily influenced by Hollywood and its glamorous stars. It stars the troupe of Golden Age Dancers with stories all their own.  Eventually, Nafay will have to face part of her past that she was soon hoping to forget.

Farah: Farah was raised primarily by women and is a traveling street performer who sings, dances and recites poetry. She performs regularly at the marketplace where she swings her assaya(cane) and plays her finger cymbals.  As Samara (read character below) travels to Cairo she sees Farah dance and is mesmerized by her beauty and dance.

Sabah: The young Sabah left her family when she was a younger teenage due to rebellious behavior.  She found herself in Cairo where she meet up with Nafay, the owner and troupe director of Casino Cabaret. As one of Nafay’s first troupe members, she soon becomes the headlining star of the casino.  Sabah is movie star gorgeous, talented and a bit narcissistic.  She is spoiled endlessly with jewelry and gifts from patrons.  Sabah works very hard and has little time for friendship.  When Samara, a unique and beautiful girl enters the troupe, Sabah becomes cautious of her dance ability.  Things turn for the worst, during a routine rehearsal, when an unexpected intruder comes to practice and causes Sabah to trip.  Now, with a twisted ankle, she is unable to dance for the weekend show leaving Samara to temporarily take her place.

Jamah: Jamah comes from a long line of traditional male dancer’s in Istanbul. However, with the growing trend and adoption of western taste, the once popular male dancers of the Ottoman empire have slowly demised.  Jamah is determined to change this and longs to be a part of Nafay’s troupe by any means necessary.  He works as a busser at the casino and is often allowed to sneak in to watch the troupe practice.  One day, in order to prove himself to Nafay and the other dancers, he tricks the new troupe member Samara (locking her in the kitchen closet) and performs in her place during a dress rehearsal.  At the end of the song, the troupe is a tiny bit shocked but giddy and impressed that he know the choreography. However, an over-dramatic Sabah faints and falls to the floor, twisting her ankle.  Jamah runs out of the building before Nafay and her brother get ahold of him. With Sabah unable to perform, Samara will have to take her place.

Nafay’s Casino Cabaret Troupe: Nafay’s troupe consist of the most beautiful, elegant and talented dancers who perform on a weekly demanding schedule.  Nafay, who is the owner and troupe director provides the choreography for many of the performances.  Their style includes theatrical stage performing with props as well as improvisational numbers to live music.  They have a very showgirl western appeal to their dramatic and alluring look.  Sabah is the headlining star of the troupe who has solo pieces in the choreographies. Samara, a young new dancer, will soon become part of this troupe.

Samara: Samara was raised alone by her father Assad after he took off and abandoned her mother for her unconventional lifestyle.  Assad is protective of his daughter but see’s that her personality grows more toward her mother’s way. In fear, Assad tried to shelter Samara from the world.  On the way to the marketplace to run errands she decides to leave once and for all.  She makes her way into Cairo where she meets and instantly bonds to Nafay who gives her motherly love that has been missing most of her life. Nafay welcomes Samara, an untrained dancer to the casino, and spends the majority of her time training her to eventually join the troupe.  She has her struggles at first but then becomes accustomed to dancing.  Eventually, she joins the troupe much to the jealous demise of the star Sabah.  When Sabah trips during rehearsal Samara soon takes her place as the soloist. But that is not the end of the story.

To be continued…