• Gail Nyoka
  • It is the old women who know how to dance
It is the old women who know how to dance
Written by
Gail Nyoka
January 2014
Written by
Gail Nyoka
January 2014

I whispered to one of the villagers that Rosemarie danced well.  “Of course,” he replied.  “It is the old women who know how to dance.  They have lived. ” Diane Wolkstein

The late Diane Wolkstein travelled to Haiti, where she collected tales from that country’s rich culture of storytelling.  Originally published in 1978, The Magic Orange Tree, a collection of some of those tales, has become a storytelling classic.

Before each tale, Wolkstein set the scene of the place where she heard the story, the atmosphere, the audience and the storyteller.  When she heard the story of Owl told with dance by Rosemarie Masse, the experience led to renewed determination to bring these stories and experiences to a wider public.

In the preface of the 1997 edition of the book, Wolkstein describes the thoughts that led to her decision: I will write the stories, write about the storytellers, and write about the storytelling experience that creates community.

As much as the stories themselves, I enjoy the introduction to each story.  they help us to understand the people and culture from which these stories come.  I like the fact that in Haiti, is is expected that old women dance.


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