Iran News ...


3/2/05

DC Choreographer Brings Persian Epic to the Stage


3rd Annual World Dance Showcase: "Dancing in Islamic Lands" featuring the premiere of Haft Paykar: Seven Beauties
 
April 2, 2005, 7:30 PM
Publick Playhouse
5445 Landover Road, Cheverly, MD 20784
301-277-1710 (Box Office), TTY 301-277-0312

 
The 2005 World Dance Showcase, sponsored by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC), will feature a  new folkloric ballet, Haft Paykar (Seven Beauties), by award winning choreographer Laurel Victoria Gray and her Silk Road Dance Company. Christel Stevens, Performing Arts Specialist with the MNCPPC, created the World Dance Showcase three years ago to spotlight culture specific dance traditions often underrepresented on the concert stage. When Stevens decided on the theme of "Dancing in Islamic Lands" for this year's showcase, she tapped the Silk Road Dance Company to present Haft Paykar, knowing it featured traditional dances from seven distinct cultures representing the finest flowering of Islamic art. Performances by other groups, including presentations of Turkish and Egyptian dance, will open the evening concert.

Haft Paykar celebrates ethnic diversity, extols the beauty of other cultures, and praises the wisdom of women. Written by the Persian poet Nizami in 1197, it is an epic romance. In the tale, the young warrior Bahram Gur enters a mysterious, locked room to discover the portraits of seven beautiful princesses, each from a different land. After he wins a kingdom and achieves great wealth and power, he remembers the maidens and sets out on a quest to bring each to his kingdom, commissioning the architect Shideh to build seven domed structures - one for each bride.

No simple fairy tale, Haft Paykar is an erotic allegory about a quest for human perfection steeped in numerology, geometry, astrology and color symbolism. Not only does each princess of Haft Paykar come from a different country, or "clime," but each is associated with a different color, planet and virtue. Each of the seven maidens tells a tale to her bridegroom that imparts a specific moral lesson. From these wise women the hero learns patience, truth, faith, passion, serenity, fairness and devotion to God. Since Bahram Gur is destined to become Ruler of the World, he must learn these lessons in order to govern wisely. His spiritual journey is a reminder that only through self-knowledge and self-mastery can humans find perfection. 

Gray views this ambitious project as an opportunity to bring to American audiences the ecstatic, esoteric side of Islamic culture. "As one familiar with the culture and history of both East and West, I feel it is imperative to use art to build a bridge of understanding between Americans and the Islamic world. Instead of falling prey to the false notion of a 'clash of civilizations,' we need to remember that East and West have interacted for millennia, often crossing cultures with positive results." Gray feels the framing story of Haft Paykar -- the education of a ruler who has achieved great wealth and power but is in need of wisdom from other cultures -- gives the medieval epic "an eerie immediacy."

To view Haft Paykar as the stereotypical "sultan and the slave girls" story of Hollywood movies, Gray contends, would be "primitive and superficial." Bahram Gur sends to the far reaches of the known world to bring the wisdom of other lands to his court. "When he embraces a princess, he embraces her culture, her traditions."  Gray believes that "the exquisite beauty of the dance, poetry and music of the Islamic world reveals a different face from the austere fundamentalism known to most Americans. Nizami uses movement, color, words, music, scent and taste to express deep mystical concepts. Here, in the hidden gardens of allegory, beauty that appeals to the senses becomes a way of finding oneness with God."

Although Gray is known for her mastery of numerous Middle Eastern and Central Asian dance genres, she always seeks to increase her knowledge, approaching cultures of origin with respect. As Stevens observed, the Silk Road Dance Company presents "jewel-like" examples of world dance from the storied regions of Central Asia in a carefully rehearsed, authentic way." For the Moroccan piece, Gray arranged a master class for Silk Road members with North African dance specialist Amel Tafsout. Classical Indian dance artist Jayantee Paine assisted Gray in the creation of the North Indian style piece of the Princess of the Black Dome, "daughter of the Indian Rajah." For the martial Princess of the Red Dome, Gray drew from her field research in Tbilisi, Georgia. The aggressive sword dance of this princess and her handmaidens is inspired by the ancient Georgian war dance Khorumi.

Choreographically, Gray is a miniaturist, painstakingly crafting exquisite dances rich in delicate gesture. As she creates new dances, she also designs the costumes for each piece. Haft Paykar features over 50 costumes, each incredibly detailed and reflecting the color and clime associated with each princess. Audrey Elizabeth, New Orleans based performing artist and founder of the multi-ethnic "Dance Without Borders," recently enjoyed a rare opportunity to see Haft Paykar choreographies in rehearsal. "Haft Paykar is a literary classic. Laurel's poetic choreography, her inspired selection of Eastern music, and her gorgeous costuming will make Haft Paykar a dance classic, too."

Ticket reservations: 301-277-1710.  $12 for adults; $6 for students and seniors.

... Payvand News - 3/2/05 ... --



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