Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dance at the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music

The Fes Festival of World Sacred opens this year with the Royal Cambodian Ballet on 4 June, at Bab al Makina.

Royal Cambodian Ballet

This Khmer form of dance was almost completely obliterated during the Pol Pot regime, but has now been recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Opening night at the Festival is always a gala affair, usually attended by HRH Princess Lalla Salma. This particular concert should offer all the glitz needed for a special night. The performance is choreographed by HRH Princess Buppha Devi, herself a former dancer. Although retired now, she works as director of the 300 dancers of the Royal Ballet.

Accompanied by the tinkling of xylophones and a euphony of gongs and drums, the Apsara dancers, dressed in their tightly fitted silk tunics embroidered in gold and silver, barefoot but with elaborate headdresses and glistening with jewelry, enter the stage to perform with incredible grace. Dancing holds great significance for the Khmer people and the government considers the Royal Ballet in particular to be a national treasure. Princess Buppha Devi, along with the Ministry of Culture, is helping to ensure that its traditions will flourish in the next century.
HRH Princess Buppha Devi

More dance will follow on the afternoon of Saturday 5 June at the Batha Museum, when the athletic young Gotipuras of Raghurajpur Heritage Village in Orissa, India, will perform.

Gotipua dancers

Gotipua (meaning boy) dancers dressed as girls originated in the 17th century, possibly because women were not supposed to perform in public. These dancers are not allowed to dance inside the temple, but occasionally within the temple precincts for special occasions. The group consists of four or five members with a guru, or teacher, in charge. The guru plays the harmonium and sings. There can also be a madala and a ginni player. The dance style is Odissi.

This particular group will perform Bandha Nritya dances which are acrobatic and involve difficult physical exercises which can be mastered only at a very early age; they can't be performed after adolescence.

Raghurajpur Heritage Village has been in operation for ten years, and almost everyone in the village is involved in arts and crafts. It's situated close to Puri in Orissa, an important pilgrimage site with its Jagganath temple.

At 21h00 on Monday 7 June at Dar Pacha Tazi, Les Musiciens du Nil from Egypt will be performing. With them will be Tanoura dancers, a form of whirling.

Tanoura dancers

The Tanoura dancer places himself at the centre of the group with the others around him, like planets around a star. This represents the grandeur of the universe and the superb creativity of God. Accompanied by folkloric instruments such as flutes, drums and rebec (a simple form of violin), the songs can be invocations to God and eulogies on the Prophet as well as popular songs about peace, friendship and love.

Festival links:
Accommodation: Fez Riads
Programme in English
Ticket Collection and Delivery

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