The Guedra dance is one of the fundamental elements in the folkloric repertoire of the South of Morocco, a region born from a rich historical background and patriotic pluralism. It is often considered the cultural identity of the South of Morocco, a mysterious and true receptacle of diversity. The Guedra draws its name from its unique instrument: a clay pot covered by animal skin, usually camel or cow skin. The performers sing their love and clap while kneeling down around this clay pot. This mono-instrumental composition does not affect the harmonical complexity and the vocal technique related to the dance. The crescendo in the rhythm of the chanting portrays the perfect complicity and harmony between the female dancers, the singer and the rest of the group.
The Guedra dance starts with a veiled female dancer seated in the center of the group with a very specific symbolic role. Her hands begin to respond to the music and start to portray different parts of her body. By keeping her veil, the female dancer nourishes the curiosity and imagination of the male dancers around her. There unfolds all the symbolism associated with desire, fertility, sensuality that the Guedra dance strives so hard to express. As the chants grow louder and the rhythm intensifies, a male dancer will end the wait and unveil the female dancer for all to see and to satisfy their perceived fantasy. A male from the group will often remove his dagger, a symbol of power and virility in the Moroccan culture, and wrap it around our female dancer. This is interpreted as an invitation for courtship.
The female dancer will then decide to accept or reject the offer by keeping the dagger or returning it to its owner. Unlike traditional tribal society characteristic, male dominance is not present in south of Morocco’s nomads way of life. Women are free to engage romantically with whomever they please. There is a sacred element to the Guedra. The clay pot, usually used for cooking during the day is normally charred by the fire it was under. Fire being a universal sacramental divine element is not only represented by the clay pot, but also by the crescendo of the music. The female dancer is sprayed with salt as a symbolic attempt to soothe this mystical and sacred divine element.
Amnat Aichata hopes to bring to life and share this rich historical cultural tradition of the South of Morocco with the guests of the Kennedy Center.