CARAVAN TO CAIRO
nytheatre.com review by Joanne Joseph
The cool (hand fans supplied), dark, high-arched Washington Square
United Methodist Church is the right venue for what in the 21st
century's current horrific times in the Middle East is a salutary,
counteracting, and highly artful performance.
August 15, 2003
Four women skilled in the various forms of gypsy-oriented dance from Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Egypt, Italy, Turkey, Algeria, Lebanon, and Spain, beguile with dazzling costumes, scintillating music (on tape), and dignified (clothed) undulations, gyrations, quiverings, hootings, stompings, janglings ....all light-footed and swift. Morgiana narrates the folk tale of a Djinn who marries a human, is happy for many years, has two sons with him, but eventually must return to her own kind —in the form of a dove who can nonetheless fly above the heads of her human family and console them. Morgiana also directs the evening under her longer name (Celeste Varrichio). The other three women are Samara, Andrea, and Reyna. The many impressive costume and character changes are accomplished by all with speed and ease. They even have the breath control, just barely, to speak smoothly into a microphone when it‘s time to introduce the next dance.
New York Performing Artist Company, creator of Caravan to Cairo, tours through arts-in-education arrangements, and in my opinion can reach young children in schools or seniors in Assisted Living facilities and equally bring them cheer. The rest of us in between will also perceive their work with pure delight, as witnessed in tonight's opening performance.
The only criticism I would give is that there is no need to talk down in their informative explanations of the origins and stories of the dances they do. Their work does not need further enhancement, but stands powerfully on its own—its messages come through. Overstating to the audience what they are about to see can diminish the experience rather than enhance it.
Caravan to Cairo begins with a rousing Egyptian celebration procession, and ends with a percussion finale blending complex rhythms and full-out choreography. Since the movements date back centuries, it occurs to me that some of the ritual may serve to suggest the power of women, particularly for childbirth, not to mention conception. Aesthetically, the dances honor the continuation of the sometimes much beleaguered human race.