Gilded Serpent presents...
a Revivification of Ancient Sacred Dance
The Silk Road
Kennedy Center Millennium Stage,
report by Pen
impressed me as a stunning artistic success, splendid beyond belief.
The work can touch your innermost heart and exalt your soul. It
is composed of fifteen episodes, alternating ensemble pieces with
solos, telling the story of women and the Divine Feminine as the
heart of ancient Egyptian civilization.
seamless transitions from one episode to the next were well
designed and smoothly executed, so that the work flowed as a
Prologue: The Prophecy
The exordium featured Thoth emerging from the formless mists
of the unfathomable past, to declare the sacredness of Egyptian
civilization and the seriousness of its loss. In this episode
he was essentially a static figure, suggesting the impassivity
of the perspective of eternity while setting the stage for
the lively dances that followed. The recitation drew upon
ancient Egyptian scripture, the Corpus Hermeticum,
thought to have been the word of Thoth.
Gift of the Nile
Rippling waves of primeval waters give birth to all life.
Nile nymphs undulate gracefully, evoking the movement of water,
as the land of Egypt becomes populated with living beings.
But watch out for Sobek the crocodile!
Priestess of the Snake Goddess Renenutet
With this episode begins the actual re-creation of ancient sacred
dance. Haidi Kestenbaum inhabits the role of priestess
so fully with her sinuous hips and flexible body, she evokes the
presence of the Goddess and takes the audience back in time to the
ancient temples where dance was worship
On the Land
The next transition takes us from the divine to the human realm
of women. The dancers portray peasant women working the fields,
telling of Egyptian womanhood with the timeless baladi dance that
is still the joyous recreation of village women in today's Egypt.
The dance forms a living link between the present and the past
through the ages via the continuity of the feminine spirit that
draws its vitality from the land. Horus carries the sun disk across
the stage and hands it to the Goddess Nuit as the sun sets.
The Goddess Nuit and the Dance of the Cosmos
As night fell and Nuit appeared in the Dance of the Cosmos, She
was so breathtakingly beautiful that I was shaken to the core
of my being. Tears of sacred awe and divine love rolled down my
cheeks during Her dance, for the living presence of the Goddess
was blessing us from the stage. Nuit, the goddess of the night
sky, carries the sun disk through the night as dancers carrying
stars (using the authentic Egyptian temple art design) wheel and
twirl around her to celebrate the circular motions of the heavenly
spheres. Parastoo Ghodsi beautifully portrays Nuit; her last name
appropriately comes from the Arabic word quds, meaning
Four dancers employ the geometrical form of their bodies to construct
pyramidal shapes from the ground up, with a precision of form
that bridges the abstract and the human, while the God Anubis
oversees and blesses the construction.
In the Temple of Isis
At the center of this scene Keylan Qazzaz reigns
majestically as the mother goddess Isis, standing regally tall
in Her queenly presence. The priestesses of Her temple celebrate
the sacred dance around her, conjuring up a vision of numinous
beauty to pay homage to the Eternal Feminine.
Invasion of the Foreigners
In this work's only male solo dance, Jhim Midgett
as a Hyksos marauder terrorizes and cruelly beats the women of
Egypt. For once, the story of invasion and conquest is told from
the women's point of view. Jhim's performance explodes from a
tightly wound package of destructive fury.
Wrath of Sekhmet
The Lion Goddess Sekhmet is so angry at humanity's impiety,
she starts to burn all life with the rays of the solar disk.
The other deities trick her into drinking beer disguised as
blood, so that, drunk, she passes out. Joanne Giaquinta
in her "catsuit" is purrfectly divine as Sekhmet,
so feral and graceful. Her role is tricky, combining seriousness
and humor, but she pulls it off with style and wit. (During
the curtain call, she playfully turned feline again for a moment,
snarling and clawing.)
The Seven Hathors
Hathor, the goddess of love and beauty, could take a sevenfold
form. Here, She is represented by seven priestesses of Her temple,
clad in matching gowns of warm colors, executing carefully synchronized
whirls and figures. Their magnificent swirls of beauty produced
a hushed awe in the audience, knowing and feeling that this beauty
manifested the presence of the Goddess Herself.
Another vignette of Egyptian working women's lives, this episode
enlivens the work with a bit of fun when the overseer isn't
looking. Two of the linen workers begin to play at wearing the
finery they are weaving, until gradually all of the ensemble
join in a lively baladi dance -- until the boss comes back!
The overseer is about to scold them, when her attention is distracted
by distant zaghareet cries...
From the back of the hall, a grand festive procession to the beat
of a traditional Nubian rhythm makes its way up to the stage.
The student dance troupe Ensemble Mumtaz contributes
to the march, which leads into a scene from the Egyptian court.
Anyone who has ever admired the famous wall painting of professional
dancers at a party swaying their rhythmic backbends, and wished
they could be present at that feast, will find their wishes
fulfilled here as the painting's dancers come to life. Queen
Tiye, her children, and her Royal Saluki hound witness the dancers'
lively, athletic, sistrum-shaking entertainment.
A somber note sets in as Cleopatra, representing the last of ancient
Egypt's sacred tradition, bids farewell to her daughter and denies
the Roman conquerors their chance to humiliate her as she chooses
death. Yillah Rosenfeld as Cleopatra uses a real
live serpent in this scene which is symbolic of the demise of
Death of Egypt
Isis embraces Cleopatra, Anubis mummifies her, and Maat
weighs her soul with the feather of truth as we are taken to the
Egyptian afterlife and the judgment of the dead. The dancers form
a solemn tableau in fulfillment of Thoth's prophecy in the first
episode. The static poses of the first and last episodes form
symmetrical bookends showing ancient Egypt's sacred tradition
emerging from and returning to eternity. The message of "Egypta,"
foretold in the Corpus Hermeticum, reminds us that Egypt's
sacred tradition can live again when people worthy of it come
to revere it once more.
was truly a Goddess lover's dream come true. Laurel
Victoria Gray has the magic to actually bring the
divine presence into our midst. You can tell that she created
this not just as a spectacle but as genuine sacred art, as close
to reviving the sacred dance of the ancient world as we will ever
see. As the audience left, their hearts still beat with reverence
and joy at the beauty this performance brought to life.
Goddess lovers should definitely take note of the Silk Road Dance
Company because their artistic vision is to celebrate the Sacred
Feminine through dance. Laurel Victoria Gray's work brings out
the Sacred Feminine in Islam, since most of her work is based
in Islamic cultures, particularly Uzbekistan. She has worked there
with traditional dance experts and tapped into the feminine current
within Islamic culture that goes back to the ancient Goddess.
Let us support and cheer on the artists like the Silk Road Dance
Company who are paying homage to the Goddess.
Center's funding that went toward developing Egypta's latest incarnation:
The Local Dance Commissioning Project was created by the Kennedy
Center in 2001 to foster new works by local dance artists. The
project provides funds for each choreographer to create a new
piece, a venue to show the work, as well as rehearsal space and
technical assistance. The Project nurtures the creation of new
work in Dance and presents these artists to the widest possible
audience via the Millennium Stage.
Road Dance Company
Laurel Victoria Gray, Artistic Director
Keylan Qazzaz,* Assistant Director
Cindy Connelly Ryan*
Elaine Woo Lamirande
Debra “Annalise” Pacheli
Carman “Nimeera” Theis
* denotes Principal Dancer
Mumtaz Guest Performers
Michelle Gilliard Chargois Haidi Kestenbaum
Anisha Dharshi Adriane Whalen
Katherine Fanjoy Elizabeth Whalen
Amelia Starr Mason
Lohengrin F. Nix
Deepali M. Patel
Amy Ellen Polk
Hermoine M. Hamlin
Here is a post-show
photo from the Kennedy Center |
and below) from the Chicago performance of Egypta in April
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Annual San Leandro Festival produced by Tatseena
photos by GS staff
seems that this event is destined to grow each year.
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Music and Dance Camp in Mendocino by GS staff and friends
the extra photos of our art and faces you know projected into
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Nour: A Biography by Ekaterina
dance, having its own rules, was like the flight of a soul, especially
for one who sees dance as art and not just personal exhibitionism.
Of Hamams and Bathing by Justine
attendants giggle while dumping scalding hot water on the screaming,