Stories from the Somerville-Tiznit Sister Cities (part 3)

by karen Krolak

I was feeling fairly droopy by the time we boarded our Royal Air Maroc flight to Casablanca and was not in the mood for the seat swapping chaos that erupted in our row. As soon as everyone settled in and snapped on their seat belts, I curled up for a nap. My eyes were shut before the overhead bins were. Thankfully, the scent of steak tips drew me out of my slumber. As I unfolded my tray table, the woman who had won the window seat next to me began to chat. I wasn't fully conscious when she introduced herself so I can not recall her name.

As I pulled the foil off my meal, she explained that she was looking forward to spending three weeks with her family in Liberia. Nine years ago, she had moved to Amsterdam and she described the awkwardness of being a bridge between these two cultures. "Luckily, I write," she proclaimed. "I have lived through a lot. When an unpleasant thought or memory comes into my head, I write it down so that I do not have to remember it," she continued.

Although she had never heard of Tiznit, she was extremely curious about the Sister Cities project. When I told her about Monkeyhouse in the middle of lunch somewhere over France, we unfortunately found that friction between traditional and contemporary art forms. Her eyes glanced down as she confided that she had never heard of a choreographer before she arrived in Holland. "I never realized that there were people who made the dances." she admitted with a tinge of embarrassment. I, however, was equally mortified by my ignorance of African dances and other cultures where dances were proudly passed down through generations.

We found common ground, though, once we started talking about choreography as moving with meaning. As I began describing projects Monkeyhouse has done with at risk teens, her broad smile beamed. She had a fifteen year old daughter who was finally able to join her in Amsterdam four years ago. Apparently, the culture shock had been much harder for her daughter. "If it hadn't been for her dance therapist, I don't know how she would have survived," my seatmate announced. "You should see what happens to her when she dances. I write but she can only express herself in movement. I wish women in my hometown had help like this but they would never go to therapy," she said.

At the time I wasn't sharp enough to respond. I have been wondering since then, however. Do you think social dances provide a cultural form of dance therapy? Do specific dances help people to express certain emotions or wordless ideas? Any thoughts?

to be continued...

To comply with recent legislation regarding blogging, I should mention that my trip was sponsored by University of the Middle East project, The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in concert with Sister Cities International, the City of Somerville, the City of Tiznit and the Moroccan American Cultural Center. Readers should know that my experiences would not be typical for anyone else.

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