The legendary Amel Tafsout, meaning “Hopes of Spring”, is an inspirational master dance performer,
choreographer and one of the finest exponents of North African traditional and contemporary Maghreb Dance of our time.
The knowledge of her culture and her experience in many dance styles and music make her very unique.
Amel’s signature arm work is reminiscent of Flamenco yet also retains the grounded feel of the Amazigh-Berber tradition - combined with her fabulous hip work creates an ethereal dance
that is powerful from the Earth. She explores the rich tapestry of movement and rhythm that has woven over time between Spain and the Maghreb, Africa and the Middle East, The Mediterranean
Sea and Europe. She has mesmerized audiences around the world with the earthy fluidity of her dance, her expression, her stunning stage presence and great spirituality. Fluent in 5 languages
she is always aware of the impact that cultures have in art and how that can be expressed in dance.
With an M.A degree in Sociolinguistics, Tafsout is graduating at the University Of Eugene, Oregon. Brought up in Algeria, Tafsout was fascinated by dance and music since childhood. She grew up
among the finest traditional dancers and musicians of her native country.
She studied dances of her neighbor countries as well as Middle Eastern, European folk dance, African and Afro-Cuban, Flamenco dance while traveling worldwide.
She uses her expertise to lead highly successful master classes in dance, drumming and singing for students from various countries with different backgrounds,
such as professional dancers and actors, women, elders and children.
She has developed a new experience in teaching, which combines Dance, Singing and Drumming. This creativity has enhanced the spontaneous fusion between Dance and
Music – Sound and Vision. Her research focuses on the Ritual in Maghreb dances as well as looking at dance as a healing form.
Amel will seem to you like a voyager between countries, cultures and languages (…).her teaching technique
focuses on sharing the spiritual energies (…). Each of Amel’s movements come from inside and is charged with pure energies.
While Amel, the Berber woman, moves closer to the souls of the women, they in turn become more aware of their own strength and
are able to recover their spiritual balance through dance. The word ’healing’ is not mentioned but what happens here is nothing
less than that.’ Gizella Hartmann, in ’Orient Magazine’, Germany, nr 1, 2002
In her early twenties Tafsout moved to Germany where she founded the Pan Arabic dance company ‘Banat As Sahra’,
In the late 80s Tafsout moved to London, U.K. where she taught and performed at various dance and music festivals and founded
“The Tafsoutettes” dance company. While still performing and teaching worldwide Amel is living in the U.S.A.
Tafsout has lectured, danced, taught, sung and conducted anthropological research in many countries. She also published many
articles related to dance and Maghreb women in academic and popular magazines.
‘Watching a performance by Amel Tafsout‘ Strong woman, passionate, formidable cultural ambassador,
internationally acclaimed, spiritual, Medicine woman, patient, gentle, academic, linguist, powerful ambience surrounding her’
- All true. But there is the rest: the humor!’ Marian Watson
‘Watching Amel dance, is a cathartic experience. (…) She dances from the very core of herself. Sensuality
is expressed as power and generosity. She has a direct stare, a presence that can only come from the true knowledge of herself
and her art. She is a unique performer and there is no one else who dances like her.’ Beatrice Parvin, in Habibi magazine,
Vol.18. No 1. 1999, Santa Barbara, U.S.A.
Having worked and lived all over the world, unsurprisingly, migration has been a constant theme in Tafsout’s work.
Contact Amel here:
Amel Tafsout:Transcending Traditions of Maghreb Dance
Amel’s hands have a character all of their own. When she moves she uses them deftly, as if creating a moving portrait surrounded by an ornate and scalloped frame. Her hands are in constant motion. They roam unceasingly around and above, magnifying her emotions portrayed by her hips, torso and face. Her feet stay rooted, and yet they contain tremendous grace; slightly brushing the ground before she rests.
She moves her arms around her chest in the shape of a heart, her hands curling then uncurling. At times her fingers open as if coyly playing with a fan, or they curve as the cards of a gambler who hides her secrets. Her hand is ingeniously played. It is as unpredictable as the cards dealt in quick sharp succession by the nimble fingers of the croupier. At times she strokes each wrist in turn as if she is applying the purest of perfumes and then she will flick her palms out to the audience and then towards herself - a gesture of giving and receiving energy.
Watching a performance by Amel Tafsout is a cathartic experience. Contrary to common stereotypes there are no mincing, shallow flirtations to be seen in her dance. She dances from the very core of herself. Sensuality is expressed as power and generosity. She has a direct stare, a presence that can come only from a true knowledge of herself and her art. She is a unique performer and there is no one else who dances like her.
When I arrive to see her perform at a Queensgate mansion, a blonde jet-setter climbs the steps with me, “Coming to Aniko’s birthday party” she drawls with a flick of the hair.
Aniko, who wears a multi-coloured glass-studied tiara on her black hair, has a warm open smile and she ushers me into the grand front room. The windows are bedecked with saris in drifting shades and on the walls North African textiles are hung. I sit down on a voluptuous sofa and observe the Euro darlings that swan gregariously into the room. Aniko ushers people away from the centre of the room and announces the beginning of the entertainment. The musicians, a derbouka player; Salah-Dawson Miller, an electric guitarist; Justin Adams, and on the bass guitar and gimbri; Simon Edwards, take their place. After playing a short introduction the dancer enters.
With her deep stare she reaches out to the merrymakers. She plays a frame drum, a large shallow ring covered in skin, that creates a rasping echoing sound. She paces the room with the drum, coming close to the circle of onlookers. Once the audience is engaged she discards it and begins to dance. It is then that the costume that is Amel comes to life: her black, yellow, purple, green and blue polka dot skirt is swathed at the hips with first a fringed black shawl and on top of this is a gold layered belt, smothered with coins. From the elbows of her tight black top, emerge layers of floating canary yellow frills. Scarves fly from her cap, flowing veils in purple and yellow. Her face emerges from this farrago of flamenco patterns and arabesque imagery; it too is adorned, painted with black dotted tattoos.
Underneath her headscarves flow her many long black plaits that twist and swirl and flicker with the swishing silks and metal finery on her hips and around her neck. She moves freely with the many layers of material and various trinkets hanging from her body which is wrapped over and over again. The costume is so skillfully put together that her movements can be clearly seen and felt by the audience. It is as if the fragments of silk and satin strewn carelessly together in a wicker basket at a market stall begin to weave and float into the air. From the many colours and textures a strange peering face, its eyes
staring, its head sliding from side to side, begins to evolve. It then begins to dance and the incredible happens. The face smiles and the figure of a woman slowly forms from the abundant amorphous material. The eddying fabric has become a beautiful dancer.
“I want you to remember that you are the most beautiful women in the world”.
Today, teaching at the Oval House, Amel resembles a Spanish shawl that has come to life. Her thin black plaits fall onto the fine tassels of an antique scarf tied loosely around her shoulders. Around her waist another shawl with longer tassels reaches to the feet. Her fine curved fingers occasionally pick a strand from the long fringes of the lower shawl, which her hand guides so as to frame her movements. She is like a weeping willow as she sways - the leaves and branches swinging gently with her to the accompanying rhythms.
Amel begins always, when teaching a beginner, with the circle. This is a journey around the latitudes of the body. You push the hips around your middle as if you are drawing a circle with a compass around yourself. This circle defines your personal boundaries. This can grow from a tiny almost internal circle to a wide expansive declaration of the self.
If the body is your world, then the circles in Maghreb dance define the territories of that world. The hips are your equator, guarding the most important female part of you, the source of your creativity. You can move as a spiral journeying through the different latitudes of the body, beginning with your head and ending with your knees.