“A Long Tango Across a Canopy of Whispering Leaves” by Nin Harris (5876 words)
No Spoilers: Melur has been waiting twenty five years for a summons to compete to be the new Festival King, a person who holds a somewhat ceremonial position...at least, that seems to be what the role had been for a while until the last Festival King was crowned amidst death and confusion. The last Festival King who had been Melur’s dance partner and lover. The last Festival Kind who disappeared and now is back. The piece unfolds in a strange, magical world of sentient mushrooms and trees and humans living with the memories of a home they have left behind, trying to live while the rules they once knew have been twisted and bent. And the piece is sensual, full of feels and tastes and memories. It’s a dance that slows and quickens, dips and spins, resolving into something lovely and powerful.
Keywords: Dancing, Duels, Trees, Rituals, Family
Review: I love the world that this unfolds in, the depth of it, the magic and the history of it that seems only scratched here. Where people have come through portals to worlds where the rules are very different. Where there are sentient forests who allow humans to settle, but not without an arrangement. One that the humans might not fully understand because they never really bother to ask the right questions, or because humans just cannot fully understand because it’s something so foreign to them. But they’ve still made the bargain, and still have to live with it. For Melur, she's always wanted to be Festival King, but it was her lover who was chosen first. Not just that, but in the choosing he was changed, altered by the experience, and then taken away. For over two decades Melur has had time to think about it, to feel the loss over and again. And yet the desire to be Festival King is still there, is still strong.
And I love how the piece shows this community, the many voices of it and faces of it, coming together because of this call, this ritual, this crowning of the Festival King. And for Melur it’s so complex because she can hear the call of the forests but also the voices of her siblings asking her not to go. There’s such pressure on all sides. To do right by her family. To inhabit the role in society that is expected of her. But she’s still got a passion, and maybe even something to prove. Because she’s grown up being compared to her grandmother, to her mother. Grown up with the stories of women who did amazing things. Yearning maybe to have some piece of that, to be able to step into the stories that exist like magic, leaping out in colors and lights into the stars, into a kind of immortality. And I love that the piece takes the form of this dance. Not a violent confrontation and not even much of a competition, but movement that has to be cooperative, that takes trust and rhythm, that builds into something that contains joy and desire, touch and flow. It’s a celebration of sorts, though perhaps not a conventional one. But for me at least it represents a victory, one where Melur is able to take what she wants, the power and the mystery, and be a part of something magical and wonderful, one that brings a new balance to her home, and for herself. Which makes for a fantastic read!