“To teach young people to dream, to find better ways express themselves other than violence.” This informs the existence of the Les Etoiles cultural centre in Sidi Moumen, a deprived suburb of Casablanca in Morocco.
A neighbourhood infamous for the murderous attacks carried out in 2003 by a group of suicide bombers.
Lessons here include classic dance, solfège, music, hip-hop workshops, English and French classes. More than 300 young people frequent this place.
“Since the first day of registration here, I’ve seen a difference,” says Amel Zaima, a member of the Les Etoiles Centre. She says she has learnt a lot and gained experience, especially in the field of dance.
“I corrected my moves and was able to discover the real dance. For me, all this is new. Today I know the true value of dance,” Zaima adds confidently.
Another member Faiza Fouad says the center has attracted “well-known people to discover this neighborhood” and has encouraged its very ambitious young talents to go further.
In Morocco, in popular circles where traditional values dominate,the relationship with art in general and dance in particular, is described as “very difficult” by those in charge of this establishment. But, they admit, Les Etoiles is changing the game, little by little, with some parents already attending the shows.
For Belouarrak Abdellah, a trainer of plastic arts, it is above all a recreation space for young people.
Music trainer Chouaib Bendagha affirms that the centre provides a rehearsal space and musical instruments that young people would not otherwise have had access to. “Here in the center, everything is available, he says.”
After Casablanca, another cultural center, Les Etoiles de Beni Makada, literally translated as The stars of Beni Makada recently opened in Tangier in the North. They hope to open yet another cultural space in Fez next year, and another in Marrakech, in the same kind of marginalized suburbs.