DC Choreographer Brings Persian Epic to the Stage
Annual World Dance Showcase: "Dancing in Islamic Lands" featuring the premiere
of Haft Paykar: Seven
April 2, 2005, 7:30
Publick Playhouse5445 Landover Road, Cheverly, MD 20784
(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
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."
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."
reservations: 301-277-1710. $12 for adults; $6 for students and
... Payvand News - 3/2/05 ... --