I’m a contemporary dance artist. That’s my title. I dance. A lot. In a studio, on a stage, on the dance floor at clubs, in the kitchen. So when I go out clubbing, it’s to dance. I like to bring it. If I were seducing someone on the dance floor, they’d know. But maybe without the comparison they don’t.
A group of us went out to listen to DJ’s from all over Africa at a club one night. It didn’t have a real dance floor, but we were dancing. One of the local artists who comes to all our events was there. He was following me on the dance floor. Super fun. Then he moved in closer. And closer. And went for the kiss. I said no. He kept going. I kissed him. I didn’t want to. It wasn’t what we were doing. We were dancing.
Later, as the group was leaving the club, the bouncer asked if I’d had a good time. I said yes. He asked if it was my first time there. I said yes. I asked if it was his first time too. He said, no I work here. I said, I know, I’m teasing. Then he asked for my number. I gave it to him. Why not? I thought. He has messaged and video called me 21 times since December 12th. I have messaged him twice, asking what’s on at the club that night. That’s it. This is a lot of follow up from very little provocation.
We go to the after hours club. It is grey. The light and the energy. Our group has been separated so we have to wait for the others and our data isn’t working here. (We are underground). There is a band with a singer on the stage. There are sports on the television behind them. There is an empty dance floor. I feel like I’m going to die if we just keep sitting here. So I get up to dance. I am the only one on the dance floor. I dance. “My modern improv shit,” as one of the artists calls it later. When the song is over there is a circle of men around the edge of the dance floor. As we walk back to our seats, someone stops me and says “Welcome to Marrakech.” One of the women with us, who is from France but lives here asks if anyone touched me. I say no. She says, “Wow. I was standing by.” She had stood behind the men watching over me.
That weekend I am at a festival. It is in an old industrial compound. There are a bunch of buildings facing each other that are all missing the walls that face into the courtyard. The courtyard is a full of rugs, cushions and low tables with lanterns overhead and a tea tent. I am there with Che and Maka. There are DJ’s spinning and we feel like the only three women in the place. Che is selling her jewellery in the artisan building. Three young Moroccan women have been admiring her jewellery and we all head onto the dance floor. There are a sea of men facing the stage with their phones up recording the set. We put our bags down between us and form a small circle and dance. We begin to spread out. I catch the eyes of other women standing nearby and smile. They join our circle. For a whole set we are 12 women dancing together in a space oppupied by three hundred men. The only man who comes near us is the man who kissed me on the dance floor earlier in the week. I turn my back to him.
The next weekend I’m with the Che, Maka and two others. We go to the club that is playing Afrobeat. I am the only white woman there. We take to the dance floor. I see everyone checking me out but it doesn’t feel lewd. Two men at occasionally try to take my hands to dance with me, but they can’t keep up with me and they can’t meet me. They drop my hands. I keep dancing. Another man is dancing beside me and he is showing me his killer moves for me to try. The women and I dance and dance; we dance with the women who are there working the night; we are all one on the dance floor.
Towards the end of the night the waiter and the manager come over to me to explain that a man in the corner has bought me a beer. I go over to meet him. “I like your style. Maybe we can talk.” Two women who have been watching all night approach me and say “nice dancing” and follow me on Instagram. I give the man who bought me a beer my card as we leave. The next day his text says “you are very beautiful”.
Set against the background of all of this, I perform SideShow for a women-only audience in our riad.
It is in two sections. In the first I am walking backwards with my eyes closed on bricks. I can’t really do this. The bricks are too narrow for me to keep my balance with my eyes closed. I need help. I’ve done this in performance before with other dancers catching and guiding me. Here, the bricks are making a shape through the main floor and the women are around the edge of the courtyard. I walk into the space, turn around, close my eyes and step onto the first brick. Ruth takes my hand, and as I begin stepping backwards, the other women step forward to take my other hand. Ruth lets go of me and the women keep holding on, stepping forward. They began moving the bricks from in front of me to behind me so that I can continue. After ten minutes the soundtrack fades and I continue in silence. The women hold my hand and walk alongside of me as I travel backwards, feeling for the next brick. I can hear them moving the bricks. At one point I hear them giggling as they rush to build the brick pathway behind me and I realize I am very close to the end. I speed up. They reach for me. The energy changes and I notice that I don’t hear the bricks anymore. They have created a circle. I feel like I am meeting each person as I step backwards, moving from one hand to the next.
When I finally step off the bricks, 28 minutes have passed.
With my eyes closed I ask them to follow me and they lead me backwards up the stairs to the balcony that circles the second floor and looks down into the courtyard, where we have just been. From that vantage point they watch me pull my pants down around my ankles and dance SideShow.
It is a tremendous experience.
There are local and visiting, straight and queer, multi-faithed and multi-cultured women spanning a thirty-year age difference. I feel like I know all of the women. I have held all of their hands. We are all queens.
photo by Lara Salmon