Transports us to Damascus and its environs in the period between 1880 and 1916. It tells us the love story of Badria and Ruslan, who meet each other like two moons in a dark night, and as a background to this romantic story, we witness the grievances and conflicts of the populace of Damascus in this time before the outbreak of the Great Arab Revolt, with a focus on highlighting customs and traditions, rites of joy and of mourning, and conflict between old and new. The dance drama begins with a symbolic representation in dance of the pain and injustices, the wishes and dreams, the longing for freedom and social justice, and the struggle between flesh and spirit of that period. The work moves gracefully from one dance scene to the next, embodying the heritage of Damascus and the artistic and aesthetic traditions of those days… we see the women of Sham (Damascus) dancing a dance of celebration with lanterns … dervishes and the practitioners of Sufism from both sects, the Refaiya and the Malawia.
And a farewell dance for those departing to make the pilgrimage of Haj to Mecca. The Hakawati (traditional storyteller) tells a portion of the story, ‘AL Sera al Helalia”, blending myth and reality in our imaginations. The light and happy spirit of peace is shattered when two men arrive from the Far East and begin to enchant the people with the dancing lady (Alarrafa) they keep in tow for fortune telling and magic shows. In an opportune moment she escapes from them. Then tax collectors with their military captain advance to supervise the collection of taxes, but a young man named Hassan faces them, inciting the people to rebel and refuse to pay taxes. A confrontation is mounting between Hassan and Aldfterdar with the water bearer, Aweidah, taking the side of the captain. In the meantime Alarrafa, the escaped fortune teller, tries to warn Hassan of danger. In Hareem emporium, a souq or market just for women, Badria and Ruslan meet each other and fall in love. Not long after, Ruslan watches his friend Hassan being arrested and taken to court. He tries to free him, but the judge, who has been bribed, sentences him to three months in jail. The dance drama also focuses on the great pioneer of Arab Theatre, “Abu Khalil Qabbani,” showing him training his performers to dance “Alsamah,” and also telling us the famous story of the burning of his theater by arson.
Badria dreams of meeting her lover Ruslan, but the beautiful dream turns into a nightmare of loneliness and terror, foretelling of evil to come. Alarrafa tries by her magic to intervene and alleviate the terror of the nightmare. Hassan comes out of prison after suffering much oppression and injustice. Ruslan rejoices to meet his friend, but the evils of the water bearer, Aweidah, coincide with the interests of “Al shalouh” Aldfterdar, and both of them begin plotting against the friends, our heroes. They decide to exploit a letter they have intercepted from Badria to Ruslan, with Aweidah convincing Hassan that the letter is addressed to him from Badria, thus sowing jealousy between the two friends.
However, Hassan sees the trick that is going on and tries to explain it to his friend Ruslan but too late, because Aweidah, in fear of being exposed, sends his men to kill Haasan. We then see a group of women in black, mourning Hassan, while Captain Aldfterdar and the water bearer Aweidah celebrate victory with the judge who pronounced sentence on Hassan . Ruslan disappears and Badria remains, trapped in the rumors, until she loses her mind. The dance drama highlights how traditions and old, worn-out habits turn people into nothing more than a primitive tribe, expelling all that is enlightened, while Alarrafa tries in vain to save the people from their unhappy fate. The finale is a dance expressing a new dawn, a mingling of dreams with reality, a hope that can never fade!