It has been awhile since I last spoke of the Arabian Nights. There is a reason for it. I've read so much into the story, that I don't want to finish. Scheherazade and her stories amaze me. As dancers, we should at least try to know her, this fascinating woman who inspires the music and our dance.
So much of this woman that we celebrate in our dance, we may not know much about her. This woman who told stories for a thousand and one nights to save her life and that of other women, says much about her. Who is she? Where did she come from?
To know her, one must know the history of present day Baghdad, the dynasties, the conquered countries, religion, and those who were closest to the Sultan. The editors of these tales that spanned for hundreds of years, are still unknown, yet within these tales told by Scheherazade, readers catch a glimpse of life during a time when the East was full of mysticism, exploration, science, and wealth. These tales were later discovered by Frenchman Antoine Galland and later translated by numerous writers.
Nevertheless, Scheherazade is the celebrated storyteller, and her stories still fascinate people today. Each of her tales also have a tale within, teaching valuable lessons about life, fate, society, and culture.
Many of us are not familiar, nor will we ever be familiar with the type of life that women such as Scheherazade lived hundreds of years ago. We have to accept the fact that Scheherazade was a woman of her time, not having the freedom that western women have today.
However, Scheherazade was an intelligent woman. We know from her stories that she studied history, philosophy, and culture. She was the daughter of a vizier, an assistant so to speak of the Sultan. Scheherazade also had a sister, Dinarzade, who helped Sheherazade in capturing the attention of the violent Sultan.
The Sultan murdered a virgin daily, because he was angry his wife cheated on him. I'm being to the point here, so Scheherazade was the one who, with so much courage, told her father that she wanted to be the one to marry him, in hopes that no other woman would be murdered by the Sultan. Bravery in a time when the odds were against Sheherazade.
Just a little side note and thought, I'm curious if the structure of Scheherazade's family inspired all of Disney's princess stories, for there is no mention of Scheherazade's mother. It is the father who in sorrow and grief, can't discourage his daughter from making the deadly decision to marry the Sultan.
Then there is the entrance. That moment when the Sultan meets Scheherazade. She is covered by a veil, standing in front of the Sultan. Instead of crying, she is confident, poised and beautiful. The Sultan is captivated by her beauty and the fact that she weeps not. Together, Dinarzade and Scheherazade start the tales with a "tell me a story" in front of the Sultan, who is curious. He listens and because the stories are so good, he allows her to live, night after night.
In a couple of days, I will add more. I want to bring to life the story, the woman and the lessons learned. Hopefully, dancers can create more from these tales, making them into modern fusions telling stories through dance. Please share your thoughts and e mail them to me.