Get to Know Alma Richeh

Our recent residency with the Moroccan based Fleur d'Orange wouldn't have been such a success without the support of those at the Center for Arabic Culture (CAC), especially Alma Richeh! Not only did she help provide wonderful spaces for our workshops and the performance of "Identite," she even took some time to speak to Aisha about how important it is to connect culturally diverse communities together. See what she strives to accomplish in her work with the CAC and what there is to gain through promoting Arabic artists.

AC: What are some of the resources you provide (or hope to provide) to the greater New England community?AL: The CAC's goal is to become the main resource on Arabic and Arab-American culture in New England for educational institutions, nonprofit and governmental agencies, and the community at large.
We can provide the New England Community with information about Arabic history, literature, music, arts and Language.
The CAC has a pioneering Arabic school that can help the community not only learn the language but also know about the richness and beauty of the culture through various workshops, concerts, documentaries, literary evens and galleries.
In addition, we have a growing library that can provide valuable information about Arabic history and Arab- American rich experience.

AC: Do you feel it's important to showcase racially and culturally diverse artists? Why?AL: Yes, it is very important. It does not only introduce the New England community to new experiences and arts but also it allows the people to learn about other cultures and nations in an open, peaceful and humanistic way.
Introducing culturally and racially diverse artists is a great way to build bridges and understanding between communities and nations. Such a matter is really needed and necessary those days.

AC: How does promoting Arabic artists empower Arab-American youth?AL: Promoting Arab Artists empowers Arab-American youths on various levels.
First, promoting Arab Artists will provide Arab-American youth with self confidence and give them a sense of pride in their Arabic heritage.
Second, they will have role models to relate to and be proud of.
Third, they will have stronger position in their communities when they realize that their heritage encompasses a beautiful culture and is a source of unique and peaceful art, music, language and literature.
As a result, they will turn to be stronger and more effective and positive community members.
The Arabic Culture is beautiful and we only need to present it to our community so they we can all share this beauty and grow in it. 


Get to Know Kimberleigh A. Holman

Recently, the amazingly talented Kimberleigh A.
Holman took some time to talk to us about cultural connections and inspirations that have influenced her work. Kimberleigh is not only a beloved Monkeyhouse supporter, she is one of the founding Artistic Directors of a fellow Boston based company, Luminarium Dance Company. Get a glimpse of the inner workings of her mind here and don't forget to check out some of the  beautiful work she has created with Luminarium! 

AC: How did you get involved with the Armory? 
KH: I officially became a board member at the Armory after helping with a fundraiser and deciding it was an organization I supported, and one that I cared to see succeed in the Greater Boston community.  Before that point in time, Luminarium had produced a few of our shows there and I just loved the space.  It's a great-big open-canvas of a purple-ceilinged venue!

AC: Why do you feel it's important to showcase racially and culturally diverse artists?
KH: Oh goodness, I could write and write on the importance of sharing art across cultures.  For the sake of brevity, I find immense value in exchanging ideas, history and culture.  By sharing in this sense we can learn and gain understanding about fellow inhabitants of this planet.  Many art forms don't rely on words and language, so it's thrilling to have a communicative experience where literally speaking the same language isn't necessary to emote and express.  At bare minimum, having access to a performance from another part of the world is fantastic just to get a chance to see the global spectrum of creativity!

AC: As a choreographer/ designer/ artist-at-large, do you find inspiration in seeing other performers? 
KH: Of course!  I think as a creator of performance, going to see as many performances and performers in action as possible isn't just entertainment, it's a learning tool.  Also, the exceptionally good performances have something magic in the air, a special something beyond content, that leaves me with a bit of a glow. If I'm feeling stumped or stuck or stale I'll go see a great show just to get a touch of that excitement brewing inside of me.

AC: Any upcoming Luminarium projects you're excited about?
KH: Luminarium projects are synonymous with excitement, in my eyes!  I'm especially excited about our huge feature production for 2014, The Sleeprunner.  It will run December 5, 6, 12 and 13 at the Multicultural Arts Center (Cambridge), 8pm each night.  The Sleeprunner is a show about dreams- think of it as what your brain might experience during one particularly vivid night's sleep.  Merli (my co-director) and I are hard at work with our dancers creating pieces based on a variety of ideas involving dreams and dreaming,  experimenting with lighting and scenic elements and collaborating with costume designer Sueann Leung for some one-of-a-kind wearable pieces.  Tickets are available on the venue's website, http://www.multiculturalartscenter.org/, and more information can be found through Luminarium's social media stream and our own website, www.luminariumdance.org.  


Getting to Know Soufiane Karim

Aisha was lucky enough to do a few quick interviews with the artists of Fleur d'Orange.  In celebration of their arrival today, here's an interview with hip-hop artist Soufiane Karim!  You can catch Soufiene teaching workshops at Impulse Dance Center on 10/17 and Endicott College on 10/18.  He will also be performing in Identity/Identite at Arts at the Armory on Sunday, 10/19.  For more information or to purchase tickets, click here!

What first drew you to dance? What was your path to becoming a professional dancer?
SK:  My mum is a dance teacher, and I always followed her in her class when I was young.  I really started dance when I met Hip Hop culture in Paris.  The music, the movements the style and energy inspired me from the beginning.

AC:  How did you and Hind begin working together?
SK:  Hind invited me to participate in the creative project Identity and we started to work from 22000km apart.  I'm living in New Caledonia, so we started to create the collaboration by internet relations and work in different ways.  Personally, I've created with my own company another work linked to calligraphy (what i was already working on) and this was my way to participate and add my brick to the wall.  Then I invited Hind to New Caledonia and kept working and exchanging together.  We kept the link and talking by Skype almost everyday and intensive working and documents sharing and writing.

AC:  Have you encountered resistance to your work?SK:  The distance was my most important resistance/difficulty during this process...and the short time I had for the creative process due to my other company schedule and projects already.

AC:  How has your attitude toward dance and performance changed over time?SK:  I was very anxious about my first work in Morocco.  Representing my culture was a pleasure but at the same time brought back to me memories and struggle that I had had in the past, like [the idea that] dance is not a job.  In our culture it is important to have a "real job".  So [my attitude] slowly changed by accepting my own culture inside this way.  Creating this work with Hind and Mohcine as my friends and family more than just random artists.  This piece is a real part me, of my struggle, of my memory, my village in casablanca and all the ceremonies and weddings, all the music songs and songs that I've been hearing during all my childhood.  I'm now fully accepting all this past as a present and as my present lifetime dancing and performing this piece and dancing with my heart, giving all who I am.

AC:  Have you found your style or process influenced by those you work with?SK:  Yes, I am always influenced by the person who I'm collaborating with.  As artists we are working with our souls and heart.  We are sharing pieces of cultures, arts, way of thinking, living.  So I feel like I've taken a small part from every artists I have collaborated with, every culture, every art form, universe.

AC:  As primarily solo artists, what kinds of challenges do you face in creating and performing? Do you find that collaborative work erases some of those challenges, or provide new ones?SK:  I think solo is a really difficult way to work and to process because you are deeply facing yourself and this is the most difficult thing for me. I'm now also artistic director and choreographer of my own company, dancing in every piece I'm making, and this is truly bringing difficulty and at same erasing some.

Performing solo is sometimes sad because you're not sharing the pleasure to have been performing, and being on stage, or sharing the hard moments with someone.  Collaborating with other artists you have to face their own personality and character, desires and anxiousness, strength and sometimes everything doesn't go in the way you would like to or expect to, if you have expectations.  But sometimes it brings more than you could ever expect.

AC:  What have you enjoyed most about working on Identity/Identite?  What were your expectations verses outcomes?SK:  Discovering my culture through the artistic universe of Hind and Mohcine, their stories, and sharing the beauty, good things and also the struggles with people.  Second, creating a new work being pushed again till the limit, and push myself to accept the challenge and discover their artistic world and stories.

AC:  In the states, we often talk about the dance community and connecting performers with the audience. Can you talk about experiences you've had trying to engage with your audience, and with connecting dancers and performers to each other?
SK:  We had such beautiful experiences sharing our work by Q&A, and sharing people's thoughts about what they felt by watch us performing. It's a such great opportunity to be able to receive the audience's feeling and understand the impact your work has had on them, and feeling how powerful art can impact people's life.  To be honest, to be able to feel how much some simple things like a one hour art piece can change the perception of hundred of people, and open their minds.  Just have to be responsible about what you are sharing with them.

Thank you for listening some bits of my story!


Meet Soufiane Karim

Photo by Aude-Emilie Dorion

Soufiane Karim is a native Moroccan who started dancing at an early age, and turned to Hip Hop in his teens. He is a cultural traveler who studies arts traditions from all over the world. His creative and spiritual journeys and collaborations took him to New Caledonia, where he established the PosuĂ« Dance School-Company. From that Pacific island nation, he researched and collaborated with artists from neighboring Vanuatu, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Recently, Karim has turned his attentions back to Morocco and created ‘Kaly-Graffyk‘ – an exploration of the tactile representations of Arabic calligraphy and the culture around it, and the kinetic movement of the body.


Meet Hind Benali

photo by Alice Defour-Feronce
Choreographer and dancer Hind Benali is a native of Oujda on Morocco’s Algerian border. Like many Moroccans, her hometown roots are strong; Benali creates cultural programs and opportunities for professionals and students there as well as in Marrakech and Casablanca. As platforms for her work and collaborations, she founded Association Fleur d’Orange in 2006. In 2008, she produced the first ACTION DANSE, a festival and workshop intended to contribute to the development of dance in Morocco and to foster collaborations between artists across borders. She also teaches and provides a creative home for many of Morocco’s contemporary, beat, and hip-hop dancers and musicians.

“I made a decision,” states Benali. “I had to dance and that meant I had to fight.” This determination, coming from within a culture where women do not dance publicly, took her south to sub-Saharan Africa, rather than the more typical path to France and Europe, for inspiration on how to become a contemporary dancer. Using her African experiences as a springboard, she has taken modern dance to public spaces in Morocco—historic sites, city parks, and theaters – and abroad.

Whether in solos for herself or in works created with others including non-dance members of the community, Benali takes life’s everyday texture and transforms it. She chases the inaccessible – a creative space that both honors and challenges society’s paradigms.

Benali’s works include HER OTHER SIDE (2012), a piece made and performed in collaboration with Esther Baker (Ohio State, Highways Performance Space, etc.). In 2010 and 2011, she created with Thabiso Pule the duets MIRAGE and EXPO (Dance Umbrella in South Africa, French Institute of Dakar, French Institute of Meknes, Oujda and Rabat, Cultural Center of Nador, Festival Action Danse in Oujda). VOI (2006) was performed in collaboration with non-dancers in local communities (French institutes of Morocco, jeux de la Francophonie in Lebanon, Le Lavoir Moderne de Paris). In 2003 Benali created the piece SEG SEGBO with Auguste Ouedraogo from Burkina Faso (danced in Dialogue de Corps in Burkina Faso, French institute of Bamako, Bobo Dioulasso, Zinder, Niamey, Casablanca, Marrakech, Abok I Ngoma in Cameroun, Printemps de la Danse of Tunisia).

October Birthdays


Jason Samuels Smith, Najeeb Terazzi, Tina Fratello, Meera Jo Smith, Max Stone, LuAnn Pagella, Parker Hall, Edward Villella, Julie Andrews, Jimmy Slyde, Mahatma Gandhi, Chubby Checker, Eric BruhnJean-François Millet, Kathryn Dunkel, Merli Guerra, Giuseppe Verdi, Ben Vereen, Jerome Robbins, Nicole Harris, Michael Cox, Joan Green, Doris Humphrey, Rita Hayworth, Michael Sao Pedro, Fayard Nicholas, Karen Krolak, Celia Cruz, Sarah Bernhardt, and Peter Martins 


Upcoming Dance Events Around Boston!

by Aisha Cruse

Wed, October 8 - Sat, October 11 @ 7:30pm
Sun, October 12 @ 2:30pm
Presented by Les 7 Doigts de la Main and ArtsEmerson
At the Cutler Majestic Theater, Boston
Les 7 Doigts de la Main are one of my favorite circus groups. I had the pleasure of seeing them perform a few years ago, and their work is absolutely breathtaking. Directed and choreographed by Gypsy Snider, who constructed the circus work for Pippin, and Shana Carroll, Traces promises to be a delight for all ages.

Fri, October 10 & Sat, October 11 @ 7:30
BB@home: Swan Lake
Boston Ballet
At the Clarendon Street Studio, South End, Boston
The Boston Ballet studio talk and performance series is offering a sneak peak performance and discussion of their new production of Swan Lake. A unique chance to engage with the performers ahead of the production; I highly recommend attending if you can.

Fri & Sat, October 10-11 @ 8pm
Sun, October 12 @ 3pm
Presented by World Music: Crash Arts
At the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
"2013 MacArthur Fellow Kyle Abraham's incredible company Abraham.In.Motion performs the Boston premiere of When the Wolves Came In, a repertory program comprising several new works inspired by We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite, includingHallowed, a new solo work set to a series of moving spiritual hymns, and The Gettin', a new ensemble work created in collaboration with Grammy Award–winning jazz musician Robert Glasper and world-renowned visual artist Glenn Ligon." The best part of ICA performances are the free pre and post show discussions, so be sure to arrive early. If you're coming on Friday, clear your schedule and stay after the show!

Sat & Sun, October 18,19, 25 & 26 @ 4pm
Fri, October 24 @ 8pm
Between the Lines
Presented by Anna Myer and Dancers
In association with Youth Link initiative of the North American Family Institute
At Hibernian Hall, Roxbury
Anna Myer choreographs this mixed-genre collaboration featuring artists from all over Boston and a script by Jay Paris of Youth Link. The program will also include a brief performance by young artists from The Lenox Street Project, and will be followed by an open, facilitated conversation about race and identity among producers, cast, and audience. This unique performance of blended communities should not be missed.

Fri - Sun, October 24-26
Presented by Celebrity Series of Boston
At the Citi Schubert Theater, Boston
Pilobolus has performed at the Oscars, the Olympics, and all over the world. I was lucky enough to see them off-Broadway when I was in high school, and I was completely entranced. The program for this visit to Boston includes their 20th anniversary commission from 1991 Sweet Purgatory, their death-defying team up with Penn & Teller[esc], and a beautiful new piece On the Nature of Things, performed by three dancers balanced on a column. Their stay is short, but it's more than enough time to capture your imagination.

Thurs, Oct 30 - Sun, Nov 16 @ 1pm &7:30pm
Swan Lake
Presented by Boston Ballet
At the Boston Opera House
Swan Lake might be my favorite classical ballet. The Boston Ballet is bringing the sinister magic of this doomed love story to the stage just in time for Halloween. I suggest the pre-curtain talk on November 1st or the Post-performance chat on November 7th for a chance to learn more about the production and hear from Mikko Nissinen about the show.

Fri & Sat, October 23, 24, 30 & 31 @ 7pm &10:30pm
Cirque of the Dead
Presented by the Boston Circus Guild
At the Oberon, Harvard Square, Cambridge
It's fitting that the one time of year that the members of the Boston Circus Guild really cut loose is Halloween. While the show is 18+ for admittance, if you want to see skilled aerialists and acrobats at their weirdest, wildest and creepiest, this is the show to see. With live musical performances and a costume contest each weekend, this is a party to die for.


Fleur d'Orange Residency Events!

Fleur d'Orange Artist Reception
Come meet Hind, Soufiene and Mohcine!
Thursday, October 16th @ 6:30pm-8pm
Brickbottom Gallery, 1 Fitchburg St, Somerville, MA

What's in a Name?
Workshop with Karen Krolak & Hind Benali, Ages 8-14
Friday, October 17th @ 5:30pm-7pm
Center for Arabic Culture, 191 Highland Ave, Somerville

Workshop with Soufiene Karim
Hip-Hop Workshop, Ages 11+
Friday, October 17th @ 6:30pm
Impulse Dance Center, 5 Summer St, Natick, MA

Workshop with Hind Benali
Contemporary Workshop at CAC
Friday, October 17th @ 7pm
Center for Arabic Culture, 191 Highland Ave, Somerville

Workshop with Hind Benali
Contemporary Workshop at Endicott College
Saturday, October 18th @ 2pm
Endicott College, 376 Hale Street, Beverly, MA

Workshop with Soufiene Karim
Hip-Hop Workshop at Endicott College
Saturday, October 18th @ 3:30pm
Endicott College, 376 Hale Street, Beverly, MA

An Evening Length Performance
Sunday, October 19th @ 5pm
Arts At the Armory, 191 Highland Ave, Somerville


Not Your Average Birthday


We are stunned that we will be turning 14 next month. Where did the time go!? To celebrate we will be holding a MONTH LONG party over at Not Your Average Joe's in Medford. Come in on ANY TUESDAY in October, have dinner, and Joe's will donate a percentage of your purchase to Monkeyhouse! Easy as that!

We'd also like to invite you to our Birthday KickOff Bash on Tuesday, October 7th from 5-8pm. You can find members of the company, friends and some great food! While you're there, check out the live feed of Identity/IDENTITE from the Kennedy Center!

We can't wait to see you there!

Much Love -
All Your Friends At Monkeyhouse


Inside the Fleur D'Orange Residency

by karen Krolak

Have you ever started on a walk or a journey and been surprised by where you ended up?  

Oddly enough, our Fleur D'Orange residency began with a series of walks. As you may remember, I ended my sabbatical in 2008 by attending the choreographers' workshop at Jacob's Pillow. I felt so emboldened by my experiences there and during my year off that I applied for a fellowship through the Somerville Arts Council. (Psst, if you are interesting in applying for this grant, the deadline is October 15. More info, here) My proposal was to explore how walking through Somerville with various people and by myself might inspire new directions for my work. I was delighted and a tiny bit surprised that I was subsequently awarded a fellowship from the SAC in 2009. 

At the time, Jason was working for Actors' Shakespeare Project in the Armory building. During Open Studios, we walked up to the Armory and Jason introduced me to the staff at the University of the Middle East who suggested that we apply to be part of a delegation to Tiznit, Morocco as part of a Sister Cities project. The idea of walking around Morocco with representatives from Somerville, including Mayor Joe, was a little intimidating but seemed to be a fabulous way to culminate my year of investigation. My parents and Jason encouraged my to push beyond my insecurities and fill out the application. Once again, I was startled to be accepted into the delegation. Then the concern was how I was going to find funding to cover the transportation costs of getting to Morocco (the rest of the trip was covered through funds from the State Department and the City of Tiznit). Before I could even begin the fundraising process, my parents called to offer to pay the entire amount. because they were so proud that I was extending my creative focus to a project focused on person to person diplomacy. 

Our trip exceeded my wildest dreams. We were treated like visiting royalty and our tour buses were frequently surrounded by photographers and local media. We met with several visual artists and musicians but in spite of my best efforts, we could not seem to find any dance companies or choreographers. Don't worry, though, there was plenty of dancing at the dinners and galas. There is also a pretty wonderful story about buying a necklace and realizing that I am not as trusting or as open minded as I had previously thought...but I digress.

Our delegation included a group of Somerville public school teachers. One of them, Karen Comeau, approached me after we returned home about collaborating with her then 4th grade classroom to find a way to keep the Tiznit-Somerville connection active. Karen and I created an after school program called Moving for Meaning that utilized choreographic exercises to help the students learn to express themselves better and then generated videos to exchange with a school in Morocco. It was a magnificent project but I still yearned to find a Moroccan choreographer when I was invited to participate in my second delegation to Tiznit in 2011. 

I will spare you the hilarious story of my 54 hour adventure of flying to Tiznit by myself just hours after we loaded out from the first Against the Odds festival (but do ask about it when you have an hour to spare...my students at Impulse say it is one of my best stories.). The ridiculous travel mishaps were well worth the experience of meeting Mina, a teacher who has created one of the first all deaf classrooms in Morocco. The other big highlight was getting to lead a group of 60 people ranging from age 6 to adult through some choreographic exercises in a library. It was cramped and chaotic at times but I was stunned by everyone's willingness to improvise and play. The only downside to the trip was that I still could not find a dance artist in Morocco.

So let's fast forward to this last winter. During one of the gigantic snowstorms, I was stuck at home checking my emails. It was a dreary afternoon and my heart ached from the desire to just be able to sit and share hot chocolate with my mom and dad. I was feeling rather adrift as i clicked open the email from the New England Foundation for the Arts about the Center Stage program. As soon as I saw that Morocco was one of the countries touring the US, I immediately checked to see if they had found a dance company. It is possible that I actually shouted when I saw, Fleur D'Orange listed. 

Once I began researching Hind Benali, the Artistic Director of Fleur D'Orange, I was fascinated. Her artistic statement began, “I made a decision. I had to dance and that meant I had to fight.” It continued, "This determination, coming from within a culture where women do not dance publicly, took her south to sub-Saharan Africa, rather than the more typical path to France and Europe, for inspiration on how to become a contemporary dancer. Using her African experiences as a springboard, she has taken modern dance to public spaces in Morocco—historic sites, city parks, and theaters -- has founded and produces an international dance festival (one of the very few in her homeland), and teaches and provides a creative home for many of Morocco’s contemporary, beat and hip-hop dancers and musicians."

For a few minutes, I was frozen. My mind was racing through ideas of how we might be able to craft a residency for this visionary woman that would focus less on a performance and more on sharing her ideas with large communities of people. I ran through all the times that Monkeyhouse brainstormed about how to improve the touring process when we were on the road. Before I knew it, I was on the phone with Kim Holman from Luminarium to see if my idea sounded crazy. She loved it and suggested that I propose the project to the Arts at the Armory. As I hung up the phone, I felt the presence of my family alive in me; sort of like how you can sometimes feel that you are making a facial expression that you have seen on a loved one's face. My parents relished bringing together a diverse spectrum of people to debate and exchange ideas. They regularly hosted visiting intellectuals and scientists at our family dinners. As overwhelming as it seemed to curate a residency for Fleur D'Orange in between their appearances at the Kennedy Center in D.C. and the Baryshnikov Center in New York, it would be worthwhile on a personal level to feel I was honoring the legacy of my family.

I still can't quite believe that this project is about to come to fruition or that we have such a phenomenal group of partners who have collaborated with us. My birthday will be on the last day of the residency and frankly, I can not imagine a better gift than this for me. Please come share in as many of these events you possibly can. Make the trip because you never know where it may lead you. 

The presentation of Fleur D'Orange is part of Center Stage, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, produced by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, with additional support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation and the Asian Cultural Council. General Management for Center Stage is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc.


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