Moroccan Sha’abi

Moroccan Sha’abi



shaabi2There are many different styles of folk dance found in Morocco. Shaa’bi (means “from the folk”, and can be found in just about every city, town or village with a variation in style. In Marrakech we find the Marrakchi (which means from Marrakech). In the typical Marrakech style, they use footwork called “rekza” or “rakza” (Daqa “foot knocking with heel or flat” or Bajah) as well as hand clapping patterns. This dance for the Moroccans is like Beledi to the Egyptians, Fezzani to the Tunisians and Zindali for the Algerians.

This relevant form is Spanish dance in the Moorish style. Today, Flamenco dance is performed with shoes, but after the long history of domination by the Moors, an Eastern conqueror, it left a dance form that was originally performed barefoot (e.g., Zambra Moora). The traditional reason is believed that dancers danced barefoot namely because it connects one directly to Mother Earth. Reference Zambra Moora (or sometimes referred to as Spanish Arabic), although there is no evidence of a dance by that name which has survived, it is believed that the people have constructed their version of what they feel it may have been. This would be true for other dances e.g., Pharonic and even some Andalusian dance styles.

The shikhat also borrows some of this footwork (rakza) resembling flamenco from their Spanish neighbors in which dancers stamp rhythmic patterns with bare feet for a flamenco effect. Although some of these steps may be “borrowed”, they are by no means the main part of this style of the Shikhat style of dance. In fact, do not be surprised to see a dancer throw some footwork in many of the Moroccan dances. A shikha is a professional woman dancer found in all of the Maghreb. In Morocco mostly the name is applied for the dancing women in the Middle Atlas, although in theory you can use it for all professional dancers throughout Morocco.

One example of a costume is two layers of kaftans (Moroccan style) covering the body from the neck to the feet and are embroidered with metallic threading. An optional full lace skirt can be worn over these caftans and at the waist neatly tucked are cords decorated in large silver circular metal pieces.

A trance-like state seems to be a common goal in most Berber dances, even when not specifically a trance dance.   Like other Moroccan dances, the use of repetition and the constant crescendo of both music and movements can create a hypnotic effect on the dancer and spectator.  The dancers sing, play instruments (cymbals and binders) or perform hand clapping while dancing.


References: Dancers whom we consider very knowledgeable in North African dances, especially Moroccan dances are Ms. Annick Buaillieul, and Badiaa Lemniai, Mustapha El Oueslati, [email protected], Khadejah El Oueslati, [email protected]