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The Dancing Princess
by Deanna Bleakney
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Once upon a time there was a little princess who loved to dance. She had started dancing as soon as she could stand up. She danced the way she felt. Soon her parents (the king and queen), the palace servants, and all the courtiers learned to recognize Princess Salome's moods by her dance. She had a "happy" dance, a "super excited" dance, an "I'm sorry" dance, a "thoughtful" dance and a "thankful" dance; just to name a few. Those who knew her best could catch the subtle differences in her dances; for instant a happy dance could be a "just because" happy or a "the sun is shining" happy. What Salome loved most about dancing was the joy it brought to herself and others, especially her father. The king always responded in just the right way, his responses were the perfect compliment to what her dance was expressing. Sometimes he would laugh with a great rumbling laugh, sometimes he would simply smile in contentment, sometimes he would join her sweeping her up in his arms and twirling, sometimes he would sigh a great sigh, and on rare occasion a tear would roll down his bearded cheek. Princess Salome loved dancing, but she loved her father even more; if he had not loved her dancing she would have found another way to express herself.
One day a dark cloud rolled in over the usually sunny kingdom. The people waited for it to blow over. They waited, and waited, and waited some more, but the cloud did not go away; if anything it grew darker. Never in all the history of the land had there been so many days of cloudiness. Days stretched into weeks, and weeks stretched into months. Princess Salome still danced but each day her dances grew more solemn. People began to grumble and fight with one another. Everyone wanted a way to explain the gloom that had settled over the kingdom. They began to throw blame, generally on people who were different than themselves. The more angry and afraid the people grew the darker the cloud grew.
After months of gloomy weather a group of angry, fearful countrymen stormed the palace and demanded that the king do something. (Now you may think, like these countrymen, that the king had been shirking his responsibility and that he really should have done something. What you do not know is that he had been doing something. While the people grumbled and fought the king had been going throughout the kingdom distributing lanterns and invitations to the palace. He kept the palace well lit and warm. But few people had really noticed, they were too busy throwing blame.) The king was grieved that his people behaved so poorly the first time any sort of trouble faced them and that so few had accepted his invitation; he decided it would be best to ride away to the edge of the cloud. Maybe when he was gone the would realize all he had actually done for them.
Before the king left he gathered together his family and those who had accepted his invitation to the palace. He reminded them to keep the lanterns lit and to care for one another. Then he took Princess Salome's hands in his and together they danced a dance which was so full of emotion that few could understand it. It was a dance of sorrow and hope, a dance of love and joy despite great sadness. Their dance expressed what words could not. When the dance was over the king gave Salome a wrapped package and whispered to her that when the time came she should open it. He told her she would know the time and when she opened the gift she would know what to do.
Time passed and the cloud remained. The queen and those living at the palace continued to send out lanterns and invitations. Princess Salome continued to dance; many children and a few grown ups joined her. Each evening those in the palace would gather in the brightly lit banquet hall. They did their very best to share some cheer. Salome would dance for them then, and while her dances were solemn they also had a hint of hope and joy. Inside the palace walls there was light that seemed to grow as the people gathered and shared their love for each other and gratitude for the king who had invited them into his home. Outside the palace walls the cloud grew darker and thicker.
The people outside the palace could see its light. Some of the people were drawn to it and joined those living there. Others resented it and refused to even look towards, preferring the darkness of their own homes to the thought of forgiving those they felt were responsible for the darkness. Some of these bitter resentful people gathered to scheme against the "king's people", as those in the palace had been dubbed. Their scheme was subtle; they would stop the joy and spread their own dissatisfaction. To do this they planned to stop Princess Salome from dancing. One by one the snuck into the palace. They whispered words of spite and discontent into the ears of those they met. They spread the rumor that dancing had brought the cloud. Some even said that it was dancing which had driven the king away. They also stole Princess Salome's shoes and slippers.
Princess Salome was getting tired and discouraged. One pair at a time her footwear disappeared. Attendance at evening banquets was lower. Fewer people smiled when she danced. Some people had begun to scowl at her each time she twirled, dipped, or, sashayed. Only a few children joined her dances. Parents frowned and held their sons and daughters close. The palace was still well lit, but to Salome it seemed as if the colour was draining out of it. She missed her father dearly. Mother was fading with the effort it took to run the kingdom in his absence. Salome began to carry her father's gift, still wrapped, with her wherever she went.
Then one evening, after dinner, when Salome got up to dance as she always did a tall handsome man also stood. Her heart jumped with hope, but it did not last long. The man addressed the people.
"You fools! You continue to let her dance and the cloud remains. We must be somber and repent of this frivolity. Do not dance!"
The people looked confused and conflicted. They did not want to agree. Dancing made them happy. But perhaps it had brought the cloud, perhaps...
Salome could stand it no longer. She stepped, barefoot, onto the dance floor. Holding her father's gift tightly for courage, she looked into the eyes of those closest to her. Then she began opening the gift, swaying as she did. Inside was a pair of beautiful, brightly coloured dancing slippers. Salome put them on and danced the most passionate dance she had ever danced.
Those that had schemed against the king ran from the palace. The children, no longer restrained by their parents joined the dance. The queen stood to her feet and wordlessly commanded the band to play, conducting them in the most passionate music the kingdom had ever known. The handsome man lost his handsomeness as he continued to shout against dancing and "frivolity." Very few people paid him any attention. They were caught in the emotion of the dance. It touched each of them differently. Some felt a great sorrow for their lack of trust in the king. Some felt a great release of guilt, many of these people joined the dance or began singing. Some knew the greatest joy they had ever known.
Into this scene of passionate sorrow and joy rode the king. He took off his robe and joined the dance. His hair was tossed and wild and there was a gleam in his eyes. Even though he was dancing with the abandon of a child and was not wearing his robe or crown his nobleness had never been more evident. Every eye in the banquet hall was on him. The cloud was completely forgotten. Loving the king was the only thought in anyone's mind. It was a glorious night.
The cloud did lift from over the kingdom that night. Those who were not in the palace soon heard of what had happened. Many of them believed and were in awe of the king and grateful to Princess Salome for revealing his love and nobleness. Some, however did not believe. In fact a few still listened to and believed the rumors spread by the handsome man. These people didn't notice the brightest of sunny days, they still dwelt on the clouds.
In the palace Princess Salome continued to dance and to love her father.

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