The second show of the week, also a part of the Explore Festival, was Ottof. A performance by Moroccan Compagnie O, led by Bouchra Ouizguen. It’s a dance company, although I would classify Ottof more as movement theatre, also using voice, than a pure dance performance.
Compagnie O was formed by Bouchra when she met a number of women performing a the night club near her house in Marrakech. They are aïtas, older, female performers who sing and dance at parties and gatherings. Admired there for their freedom in performing, that same attitude gets them judged outside, in their regular life.
As Bouchra works with these women, they explore attitudes. Both of the women themselves and that of society towards them. Ottof, which means worker ants, explores the dichotomy between their home life, inner life and public life.
The beginning feels heavy. Very slow and stilted as, one by one, the four women get on stage and start moving. They are dressed in long, traditional, robes that restrict their movement. Their legs strain against the fabric as their arms try to fly away. Once they’re all on stage, they stop. Facing each other they scream. To me, coming across as a protest against the confines of society.
After, they loosen up. Almost literally. Getting rid of their outer gaments they show the colourful and modern clothes they wear underneath. Spandex pants, tight tops, on their older and not traditionally beautiful bodies, they dance provocatively. Engaging the audience in that, as they would when performing in clubs and at parties. The sexuality is comically exaggerated, it is clear the women enjoy being funny.
During this, there’s two intermezzos as two of the women perform a spoken word piece. Both, as far as known, autobiographical and written by themselves. Both pieces spoken in Berber, untranslated to keep the original feeling. We were, however, supplied with a translation on paper.
One piece is about love, unconditional love for a daughter, love above everything else, being love itself. It felt very passionate and all encompassing. The second piece was about happiness. Specifically about not having any. Detailing the hardships she survived in her youth, her marriage, children, work. How she lived through all that without really feeling any happiness. And now that she is old and no longer even has her beauty, all she wants is to find just a sliver of happiness.The deliverywas quite harrowing and full of grief.
The performance ends with them transitioning from the sexually provocative into the frantic. Running around, screaming, waving their arms. In a sort of wild run to freedom while giving society a big fuck you.
Before the show there was an introduction that told us more about the company, about Bouchra, a bit about Moroccan society and the interplay between the three. Afterwards there was an interview/conversation with Bouchra. It was really interresting to hear her speak about her ideas and their work.