The US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is bringing three Moroccan musical and dance acts to the United States this fall as part of its “Center Stage” exchange program, which uses the performing arts to support cultural understanding between American and international communities. Among the acts is Fleur d’Orange, a contemporary dance company founded by choreographer-dancer Hind Benali, who will be performing her new work IDENTITY. The piece explores “her personal past and African roots, the limits and freedoms of Morocco’s history and current practices, the multivalent layers of culture and religion, and the lives of her elders.”
MOTM spoke to Ms. Benali on her Washington tour stop, in advance of her October 4 performance at Dance Place and her October 7 performance at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage.
MOTM: Is this your first time in the United States?
HB: I discovered the US professionally in 2012, when I started collaborating with choreographers and dancers here. I really love the way it works here. I feel so comfortable with how professional people are around artists. But it is my first time in Washington.
MOTM: Can you tell us about your experience with the Center Stage program?
HB: I am very happy to have this tour opportunity with Center Stage. It’s a very big privilege to be able to care about the artistic side and not think about logistics, the organization, the meetings, the media, the transportation…. It’s so nice to feel that our work is valued. Of course we are thrilled to share our culture, tradition, our universe; but this is also a chance to build bridges outside of the program, meet other people, have a coffee somewhere…. The doors are open.
MOTM: How did you develop the IDENTITY performance? What does it mean to you and how do you think people will react to it?
HB: I lost both my grandmothers just a few months before I started creating the piece. I decided not to ignore the impact that loss had on me so I built the piece on memories of them. I was remembering how my grandmothers used to work, how they cooked, how they cleaned, how they would just relax, how they walked, how they moved, how they dressed.
But it is not just about my grandmothers, but about all generations, making a parallel to what we are, shifting from the tradition and the religion to what we are as artists, as young people, in Morocco. We want to have different things. How can we be different people: being Moroccan, following traditions and everything, but also be our own person, with our own needs, dreams, and ambitions.
MOTM: What should we look out for in watching the performance?
HB: The musician deals with all traditional music, but at the same time he sounds very contemporary. So we use the music—contemporary, modern and traditional—to show the shift that happens during the piece from the past to today.
The other dancer in the piece does not represent someone, but rather abstract elements like religion, tradition, dreams, spirituality, like a river that flows and I am just a stone inside that river. That’s life; whatever happens, life goes on.
For a full tour schedule, visit www.centerstageus.org.