Gilded Serpent presents...
Curly Black Hair, Eyes Like Black Pearls
These are the memories, extracted from two of his personal letters to me, of a young Italian man visiting Morocco. This young man, Marco, is a sincere lover, admirer, adorer, of Danse Orientale and, of course, of dancers. (I always tell him he must marry a bellydancer to be the happiest man on earth!) He is gentle and spontaneuous, and I find his words come very much from his heart. All he says is always more or less connected with the dance. Upon reading his letters, I told him his words should be published in the Gilded Serpent so they could be appreciated. He consented.
The following scenes are vivid and mixed with his personal thoughts, emotion and feelings. They also offer the point of view of a man who stands outside the dance environment and its specific culture. Except for the title, which I chose myself, I only provided the English translation. I left all as it was, round parentheses, capital letters where there were capital letters, and so on. Possible words/sentences in square brackets [ ] are mine, for clarification purpose.
Have a nice read!
Casablanca I had visited already 3 years ago, but I had not the opportunity to live it like I did this time. It's packed full of places with Oriental Cabaret shows, where there exhibit singers and especially ...bellydancers !!
In Morocco belly dance is not really the one I have in mind; the Moroccan belly dance, which seems to me to have been copied from Egypt and modified, is executed with different costumes from those I was expecting: a long one-piece vest on which the dancer wears a very wide leather belt full of small bells; the dancer sings and lets vibrate rythmically these bells. Adding the fact that the dancers were wearing shoes, I must admit this was not too charming in my eyes.
Such dancers I have seen in Mohammadia, which is the village where I spent my holiday, in the only single place where one could find belly dance. I managed to take only one photo, because when I took it the dancer looked at me in a non-enthusiastic way. I know I should have asked before, I just was used to Egypt, with groups of tourists, where this was not requested.
But the shows I really liked I have seen them in Casablanca. There too, for diverse causes, I could not take pictures, but the dancer ... I can describe her in every little detail. The place was called Village, and is situated on the côte of Casablanca. There performed many male-singers, and female dancers of traditional Egyptian dance. Here the dancers were barefoot, with anklets in fabric and wore tunics and hip-scarves... they danced keeping a cane in the hand. I liked them very much!
At a certain point a fake horse was brought into the scene, with two persons inside it, and a dancer accompanied it among the tables, dancing; then they did a mix with singers and dancers at the same time, and endly..... LA DANZA DEL VENTRE!!!
The dancer was barefoot, with an anklet... She had a white [bedlah] costume. The top had white littlle chains falling down on her belly. The skirt was pretty low on her hips, though not as low as I like along my taste. The skirt was adorned with little chains similar to those of the top, which, starting from the high border of it came down screwing around the skirt itself. The dancer had raven-black hair, and I must say was neither too fat nor too thin.
She performed 3 pieces, each separated from short pauses. The first piece was supported with little drums, Jambe', and violin. The dancer showed immediately she could well master the situation. She danced for about 5 minutes, at a rather slow rythm for the first 3 minutes then accelerating. Until she ended with a drop in a back-arched position, the shoulders touching the floor and the legs under her body (very similar to one of the photos I've seen of you, Tanja). A charming thing for me was that the skirt was probably a bit large, and at the end of her exhibition it remained in a very low position.... not yet as low as I love, but really acceptable.
In the second piece she danced initially supported by the violinist. I can't tell you how "HOT" I was....she moved slowly and shimmied her belly in a sensuous way I am not able to describe!!! Lucky I was far enough from the stage: were I nearer to her, I guess I could have collapsed!
In a second phase the sound of a little drum added to the violin: the dance became faster, going on this way for a few minutes. I admit that also the musician who played the drum (maybe more correct to call it Bongo or Jambe') was veramente bravo [very clever]; at the end he played solo and in an exalting way. The third piece she danced was similar to the first one, with the difference that this time the dancer moved more on the entire stage and that she did not end on the floor in the arched position.
Oh I could go on writing to you up to tomorrow morning, so much my feelings move me when talking of this. This was the best holiday I had also as regarding girl-mates. I have met very many girls, beautiful friendships are born, and also... a Love. I ADORE Moroccan girls. They have dark deep eyes, like black pearls, curly black hair, dark skin... and they all dance WONDERFULLY!!!
One of the first evenings spent in Morocco my Moroccan friend took me to a village where a singer performed. She was beautiful and sang well, but was not dancing.... On our right side, on a raised stage there was a group of young girls, and they started to dance... in 3 seconds my two Italian friends and I had our chairs turned toward the direction of these improvised little dancers. They started to laugh and went on dancing.
The memory of one of these girls, she was maybe 16yo, is impressed in my mind: she wore a pair of jeans and a short T-shirt (at times, part of her belly was visible), and she looked at me while she danced. Her specialty was that movement where the dancer stays with her weight on the leg behind, The torso slightly arched back, the leg in front slightly bent, on the tiptoe, rotating that hip, lifting rythmically the foot.... I loved another gesture I have seen common in many dancers: she kept a hand by her face, elegantly... I don't know if it has a special meaning but I find it charming.
If I had been there to watch you, I would have fallen from my chair at least 3 times ... and [then] I would have kidnapped you!
As if this was not enough, another little dancer, she too in jeans and adherent T-shirt, was often doing hip vibrations, which reflected on her breasts and her buttocks. She was not even thin, but we all liked her alot (even Marco and Alessandro, who initially seemed bored to come with me to the shows). When they finished we applauded over and over. My friends agreed completely with me that these girls, even being normally dressed (they had even jogging shoes on) were able to express a sensuality that we hardly can find in the Italian girls, who notably make so much to attract the attention.
During the evening the girls danced again other times. Unluckily, or I'd better say luckily, they were with their families, so we had no way to know them. Anyway they were too young for us....
I wish to thank you for your compliments regarding the descriptions I gave... as soon as I ended to read your letter I was walking 2 meters above the floor so happy I was. I love so much to talk of my passion. It's just that "this" passion is a bit peculiar, and it's not easy to find who listens with interest here.
I am happy to know you also spent beautiful holiday, yours too rather much centered around belly dance and all what refers to it.
[About the scene you tell in that restaurant, Sheherazade,] I can well believe they didn't want let you go.... If I had been there to watch you I would have fallen from my chair at least 3 times ... and in the moment of clear brain I would have kidnapped you. Ah ah kidding... if I was not clear I could have lost some detail.....
[I return and tell you about the last week I spent in Morocco] The life oscillations bring my memories to the last week I spent in Morocco. When I knew Bouchra, the girl who stole a piece of my heart. I met her on the beach of Mohammadia. She layed on her towel with some girlfriends, and she started to look in my direction, while talking with her friends and smiling (so many smiled to me in Morocco, can it be for my green eyes and light brown hair?...) . When she stood up to approach the sea with one of her friends, I reached her, to make her knowledge. It was very simple to know her, I think maybe she too was just looking forward it.
She was in a bikini. She started to vibrate her hips while bringing her arms up... TRAGEDIA!!!
We stayed and spoke of diverse arguments... she was there from about 2 months following a language course, while normally she lived in Rabat... she was 24yo... and so on speaking of the more and the less. I told her I had been in Casablanca the evening before. To see "la Danse du ventre". My God, I wish I had never told her! Smiling she said: aahh I can dance it too... look!!
She was in bikini. She started to vibrate her hips while bringing her arms up... TRAGEDIA!!! I wore an adherent bath-suit, and as you can well imagine... I entered in a highly emotional status... In the first I prayed her to stop (smiling), kneeling in front of her while she laughed loud in full fun. Seeing there was no way to stop her, and I was more and more "on emotion", I had a flashy smart idea. To jump into the sea and swim. Fortunately she accepted. And I found again the peace of the senses.
She told me she learned to dance looking at some friends she has and trying and trying at home. And that each time she had occasion to dance in a public place, in Rabat, she did with a one-piece tunic costume she had.
From that day (Wednesday) up to Saturday evening, we have met more times, in spite that our friendly relationship was somewhat obstacled by her girlfriends, with whom she even had some discussion. It was anyway a wonderful relationship. She danced again, for me, in the apartment we had rented, upon the notes of a dreamy Egyptian music. I bought many music cassettes, just instrumental, fine to dance.
Now I'm back. I hear the music over and over... and the memories return living... of the moments I spent with Bouchra...
Go to the next article: Cairo's Costume Disasters, by Leyla Lanty.