Morocco’s D.I.Y. Dance Crews

6:47 PM Aida Alami 0 Comments

MARRAKESH, Morocco — Under the yellow domed ceiling of the Theater Royal of Marrakesh, a small crowd cheered and watched in awe as champion break dancers from around the world battled, with head slides, freezes and kicks, in a competition streamed globally online.

“Make some noise!” the host of the event screamed into a microphone. “Show enthusiasm. People don’t know anything about Morocco.”

The spectators grew louder. 

They were especially excited about the performance of Fouad Ambelj, a 24-year-old Moroccan prodigy who dances as Lil Zoo and who has become a worldwide sensation.

“It’s a great outlet for negative energy,” Mr. Ambelj said. “I love that there are no rules. I can express anything I want. It makes me feel free.”

In Morocco, where state funding and institutions for the arts is scarce, break dancing has empowered young people to make their own entertainment since its arrival in the 1980s. The dance form, born a decade earlier in the Bronx, was ostensibly free; all it required were able bodies and open space.

“As a young guy in Casablanca, if you don’t have money or you don’t want to sit in a cafe every day talking about football, one fun thing is to go to a space and conquer it,” said Cristina Moreno Almeida, a postdoctoral fellow at King’s College in London who has studied hip-hop culture in Morocco. “It’s a global language that they all speak and they all know.”

For years, these B-boys practiced in public outdoor spaces. They fashioned makeshift dance floors out of cardboard to practice head spins when they couldn’t find grass fields. 

You can read the rest of the stories and check out the stunning photos by Yassine Alaoui Ismaili on the New York Times' website here

 

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