The Belly Dance Book : Rediscovering
the Oldest Dance
by Tazz Richards (Editor)
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The Gilded Serpent

Roxanne: Beloved of Alexander

"Remembering the Legends"
The John F. Kennedy for the Performing Art presents
the Silk Road Dance Company

by Janet Jubran, M.A.

The Shamaness

Easter's Choice

Timurid Court Dance

Cry of the Heart

With an overflow crowd in attendance, "Remembering the Legends" opened with haunting, evocative music and mysterious fog that hearkened back to the dawn of time.

The Shamaness emerged from the mist hidden behind an intriguing mask. Her mysterious demeanour captivated the audience."Amazonka" featured warrior women dressed in


leather and pelts, armed with swords and shields. Their movements were sinuous yet threatening. The sparring was particularly dramatic and their actions dominated the stage.

Easter's Choice
Dressed in beautifully draped costumes of different rainbow hues, seven handmaidens surrounded Esther. Their delicate hand and arm movments that
told her story. At one point the dancers encircled Esther--

danced by Autumn Leah Ward -- symbolizing her inability to escape her fate. One by one, the girls draped her with their rainbow veils, in an interesting reversal of the "dance of the seven veils."

Roxanne: Beloved of Alexander With great energy, the playful and flirting, Reagan Hardy represented the beautiful Roxanne who enchanted Alexander the Great. Traditional music and movements from the region was once known as Soghdiana. The dancer’s traveling backbend across the stage was spellbinding.


While amusing, the clash of cultures the costuming for "Urumchi" reflects the exhaustive research that went into the costuming for the entire program. The pattern on the pants worn by the Proto-Celts is nearly identical to those found on the mummies of Urumchi. The contrast between the graceful traditional Chinese dancer and the Celts perfectly illustrated the cross-cultural experience of this unique group of people. The Proto-Celts performed steps reminiscent of traditional Celtic dancing.

The next piece was Samaya, a Georgian dance to honor the Moon Goddess, Nana. In costumes that shimmered like moonlight, the dancers glided across the stage with tiny graceful steps in a fluid motion. The trio formed crescent moons with their arms, effectively symbolizes the ancient triad of Mother, Maiden, and Crone.

Queen Mandukhai

For Queen Mandukhai, the audience was next taken to the steppes, with music featuring throat singing and even some wolf cries. Keylan Qazzaz made a remarkably authentic Mongolian warrior queen defending her country from invaders.

Traveling forward in time, the next dance was set in the court of Tamerlane. With graceful hand gestures and traditional Uzbek movements, the dances looked elegant in replicas of historic Samarkand costumes, down to the real pheasant feathers on the hats.

Very moving, the women in full Muslim garments entered silently for "Cry of the Heart". The accompanying hush that fell over the audienced testified to the effectiveness of this dance in light of current events.

The "Dancer of Shamakha" is one of Laurel Victoria Gray’s best known solo pieces. She created her gorgeous costume following traditional designs. Moving fluidly, she whirled around the stage with imperceptible steps. Her seductive movements and impressive backbends and spins revealed the lovely combination of the textures in her costume.

Raqs-i-Peri: Dance of the Persian Fairies

Trailing a turquoise veil like a piece of the sky, Autumn Leah Ward emerged from the clouds to begin Raqs-i-Peri, the Dance of the Persian Fairies. The veil soon became a canopy which harmonized with the colors of her costume. She was joined by two, then four more dancers, moving to ethereal music and intricate choreography. The delicately flowing veils and sleeves enhanced the perfectly timed arm movements in this charming and playful finale.

If ever we needed a bridge of understanding between East and West, this concert beautifully met that challenge. "Remembering the Legends" deserves recognition for presenting the ethnic diversity of the East, its wide variety of cultures, and its ancient heritage. Through compelling music, breath-taking costuming, and memorable choreography, Laurel Victoria Gray and her Silk Road Dance Company have opened a door to an world that has long remained mysterious to the West. Her careful research and effort to preserve authenticity have ensured that audiences will gain a true understanding of this region's culture.

(ed-The program notes where just too interesting not to include! See below-)

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Remembering the Legends
Program notes

1. Shamaness: Voices of the Foremothers
In traditional Central Asian culture, the shamaness served her community as a healer and a prophetess: a vital link between humans and the spirit world. Her costume contained many magical elements and her drum helped her travel to the spirit world to bring back messages for her people.

Hear the voices of the Foremothers. Hear!
They ask why you let the earth become polluted
Poisoned, Exhausted
They remind you where you come from
Do you hear?
Again they want to remind you
That the earth is our mother
If we take her life
We die with her.

2. Amazonka
Many legends, including Greek sources, speak of the Amazons, fearless warrior women from Asia Minor and the Eurasian steppes. Their unusual costuming is based on ancient depictions of Amazons in Scythian-style clothing and recent archeological discoveries by Jeannine Kimball-Davis near Kazakhstan.
3. Esther's Choice
The Bible tells of the courageous Queen Esther who pleaded to the Persian ruler, Ahasuerus, on behalf of the Jews of his kingdom, whom he had condemned to slaughter. Esther and her seven handmaidens fasted for three days before the young woman risked her life by appearing unsummoned before the king. The name Esther is derived from the Babylonian goddess of love, Ishtar.
4. Roxanne: Beloved of Alexander
Daughter of the Soghdian ruler Oxyartes, Roxanne was introduced to Alexander the Great during a banquet on his campaign in Central Asia. He soon married her. This piece includes elements of the famous "whirling dance" of the Soghdians.
5. Urumchi
Chinese chronicles described mysterious "red-haired devils" but the origin of this legend remained obscure until the 20th century. Tall, redheaded mummies — some in plaid twill and colorful striped leggings — were discovered in the Tarim Basin of Western China, an archeological find that now ranks as the oldest site of proto-Celtic origin. The dance reflects a fanciful intertwining of cultures.
6. Samaya: Prayer to the Moon Goddess Nana
Samaya comes from the Caucasus and dates back to pre-Christian times. According to dance historian Avtandil Tataradze, it was traditionally performed in groups of three women to offer thanks to the Moon Goddess, Nana, for the birth of the first girl child into a family. Samaya derives its name from the Georgian word "sami," meaning "three."
7. Queen Mandukhai the Wise
Beloved by the Mongolian people, Queen Mandukhai waged war beside her horsemen. She carried out the work of unification begun by her grandfather, Genghis Khan, who claimed descent from a sacred grey wolf. Mandukhai was also respected as a good wife and mother.
8. Timurid Court Dance
Tamerlane gathered artists, musicians, and women from many Silk Road cultures to his court at Samarkand, resulting in a melange of Indian, Chinese, Mongolian, Turkic, Persian and Arabic elements. The music is a reconstruction based on notes of a foreign traveler to the court.
9. Cry of the Heart
Inspired by the Sufi ritual of zikr, or "remembrance," this choreography draws on gestures from many different cultures of the East which reflect the heart's innermost yearnings. It also depicts the plight of millions of women — past and present — who have no voice in their society and cry out in silence.
10. The Dancer of Shamakha
"The Dance of Shamakha" is based on the eponymous work by Armen Ohanian, who described her life at the beginning of the twentieth century in the Caucasus and Persia. The town of Shamakha, now part of Azerbaijan, was famous for two things: silk and dancing girls. "Glorious in all Asia Minor," Ohanian explained, "these dancers wandered, city to city, kindling all hearts with the fiery music of their...tinkling ornaments...Goddesses with languid eyes, in which smoldered the fires of all human passions, bodies trembling, waving delicate veils..." The music is a traditional Azerbaijani wedding melody and the costume is based on a 19th century watercolor.
11. Raqs-i-Peri: Dance of the Persian Fairies
IIn Persian folktales, the "peri" was a beautiful, fairy-like creature who sometimes visited the realm of mortals. In this dance, "peris" are lured to earth with joyous music, enchanting everyone with their loveliness. The costumes are based on the opulent finery captured in miniature paintings of 17th century Persia.