North of Morocco

Copenhagen
August 2015

Crossing the bridge to Islands Brygge after a long day in Central Copenhagen, I hear music and see crowds along the waterfront. I hadn’t anticipated such activity after my arrival late last night. There is a tent set up on a wooden platform, and the sound of Moroccan and Arabic drums.

Inside, a woman is singing, while the drums build up slowly the way they do in the Jemaa al-Fna in Marrakech. Then come the belly dancers — tall, blonde. Their dancing is, well, Scandinavian, but they work the hand gestures and dramatic effects for all they’re worth.

A tiny elementary school girl does a mesmerizing dance.The better of the two dancers is featured on the next number, waving two blue banners as she dances. Then the singer plays guitar and sings in English, and there’s another number with a woman in a hat. The singer does a dance where she throws her hands in the air, then bends forward, and repeats that again and again. Next, two tall women — one the band leader — perform a slow dervish dance, spinning around and around, and then the leader does a solo.

The finale is a dramatic dance that ends with all the entertainers on the floor. There is much applause from the people who’ve stayed to the end. Lots of people watched at some time or another, though.

Just when it appears the show has come to an end, they bring out the encore: a tiny elementary school girl, all dressed in red, who does a mesmerizing dance while the whole place claps along to the drum beats. The girl surpasses all who came before. She owns the stage like only an elementary school girl can.

Sometimes I stumble upon a happy surprise.

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