Dance company celebrates women via ancient civilizations

Photo Courtesy of Mosaic Dance Company
The Mosaic Dance Company performing ‘Through Her Eyes: Women of the Near East Through the Ages.’

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Mosaic Dance Company is visiting two ancient civilizations with a performance entitled, “Through Her Eyes: Women of the Near East Through the Ages.”
Morgiana Celeste Varricchio, the dance company’s creator, said the roles of two powerful women will be illustrated.
“The performance opens with Enheduanna, who was a poet and priestess in ancient Mesopotamia,” Varricchio told this newspaper. “She is the first, non-anonymous author in history. That’s big.”
The dance will be narrated and the audience will be told that Enheduanna was a priestess to the husband and wife moon gods Nanna and Ningal. Varricchio said, for herself, learning all this was fascinating.
The piece is co-written and co-directed by Samara Adele and Gary Kupper. The performance is a co-production with William Paterson University.
“The moon gods’ daughter was Inanna, also a moon goddess, but the powerful goddess of love and war,” Varricchio continued, explaining that Enheduanna devoted her life to Inanna.
“Enheduanna was a trailblazer in her time,” she said. “When you learn about these ancient civilizations and what these people accomplished, it’s mind-boggling.”
The dance will also touch on King Sargon, who built one of the first empires of the ancient world and was the father of Enheduanna.
“We tell the story in about 20 minutes,” Varricchio said. “That’s a nice length. We don’t glance over it.”
The other woman to be highlighted is the pharaoh Hatshepsut of Egypt. Varricchio said there were only a few women pharaohs including the notable Nefertiti.
“When Hatshepsut was pharaoh, Egypt was insular,” Varricchio said. “She was a business woman and opened up Egypt. I guess you can say she broke the glass ceiling. But there was a lot of gender equality in ancient egypt. Most of the government positions were held by men, but women could enter business and sue for divorce.”
Varricchio said there were other important women from antiquity whose stories have come down to us, Cleopatra being renowned, but the Mosaic Dance Company was focusing on Enheduanna, who lived around 2250 BC, and Hatshepsut, from 1750 BC.
“In the two pieces about these women, the dancers support the narration,” Varricchio said, “But that’s only the first part of the show. Now we move ahead to the 19th century.”
In the second part, projections of 19th century paintings will be incorporated.
“Napoleon brought over a team to Egypt, where he fought, and ancient artifacts were uncovered and cataloged.,” she said.
Because of these discoveries and subsequent removal to France, everything “Egyptian” became fashionable, she added.
“We are going to focus on two painters, Fabbio Fabbi (1861-1946) and Alphonse Etienne Dinet (1861-1929), Vericchio said.
“Our premise is that we capture a moment in time and bring it to life in dance. The artists’ paintings will be the backdrop.”
A narration will precede Part II.
“Fabbi’s work featured dancers and if you’re a dance company, you want the painting to have movement,” she said. “Dinet spent time in Algeria with the Ouled Nail tribe. He documented them in drawings and paintings.”
In Part III, folkloric dance will be highlighted.
‘It’s uplifting,” Verricchio said of this part. “We want the audience to take away the joy of dance, the joy women have in dance and the joy women give to the world. But women should be celebrated 12 months a year.”
People should know, she said, that in Middle Eastern dance, the music tells the dancer what to do.
“The dancer is the final instrument in an orchestra,” she continued. “A dancer must know the music to know what is required from them.”
“Through Her Eyes: Women of the Near East Through the Ages,” will be performed at Shea Center of the Performing Arts, Thursday, March 23, 2023, at William Paterson University, 300 Pompton Road, Wayne, NJ. Box Office: 973-720-2371.