A major part of the excitement in coming to Cairo to the Ahlan Wahsahlan Festival is getting to meet one of my big dance idols in the flesh. Morocco, aka Carolina Varga Dinicu, has been dancing for 45 years, but if you look at her, it’s hard to believe she’s even been alive for 45 years. The same goes for her protÃ©gÃ© Tarik, a stunningly handsome dancer and serious young man who, like Morocco, is also an accomplished historian on the evolution of Oriental dance. They are the dynamic duo behind Moroccoâ€™s dance studio and her well attended tours through Egypt. She has been coming to this country since the 1960s. Morocco says the most touching thing about bringing Tarik here in 1980, was that when she came, she had brought a boy, but upon leaving, she was taking home a man. A man who had the understanding of who he was in the world â€“ a major feat for anyone, but especially for a young man of color. Morocco said that in the mother country of Oriental Dance, a self assuredness took him over, and from that day on he was devoted to learning and teaching all the nuances and subtleties of the beautiful art form, becoming a curator of the astonishing living history. So lucky for us, we have not just one but two.
Morocco and Tarik explain to me the way the world has contributed to the dance. Tarik says, â€œThe arms and hands come from Asia, which is evident in the grace and movement and placement of them. So if anyone asks you, â€˜why is an Asian doing this?â€™ you tell them. We think when we see white people doing something, that we canâ€™t do it, or we donâ€™t do it. But look around at all the different people here. We are the world and we are doing it. The hip movements are from Africa.â€ Morocco nods in furious agreement. When she locks her hips from front to back that truth strikes me like the big drum from which you canâ€™t escape dancing. Tarik gives me the complex rhythms to listen out for, whether they are from the Sudan, Upper Egypt, Lower Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Algeria, or Somalia. Iâ€™d previously thought that drums and the beat were simple, but they are as complex as any symphony.
Tarik knows the lowdown of all that goes down in this dance, and his students are all in love with him, screaming out his nickname â€œTy!â€ begging him for a quick ghawazzi hip shimmy before he must get back to his many other duties, like making a documentary about the men of Oriental dance, the stereotypes and fears that suppress the natural inclination for men of this culture to dance at the performance level. Many are teachers, and they rival some of the female superstars of the dance with their ability, but they will go no further than to teach, because they donâ€™t want to be labeled gay. To the male teacher dancing his ass off in the crowded Mena House ballroom, arms locked in a Lebenese headache, gyrating his hips, his face a barely contained expression of orgiastic delight, queen please. I donâ€™t think anyone really thinks too much about you being gay. They just donâ€™t want you to spill your drink all over them. Coming out in the world of Oriental dance, leaving the teacher closet and going into the dancerâ€™s closet, the rest of the community could be saved from indelible karkaday hibiscus tea stains that even dry cleaning will not absolve.