It’s #NationalPoetryDay 2022 and as part of Scotland’s Year of Stories we celebrate the bonds between traditional dance and poetry with a new Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland commission. Beira and Bride is a newly-commissioned poem by Donald Smith, an Edinburgh-based storyteller, novelist, playwright and performance poet. He is an author and contributor to numerous books, including The Anthology of Scottish Folk Tales (The History Press, 2020).
Donald’s poem is the starting point for a new screen dance reimagining the mythological worlds inhabited by the Celtic and Egyptian mothers of Earth, including Beira and Bride. Expect a beautifully compelling and vital piece of storytelling and movement for the screen. Follow us for more behind the scenes stories, including the announcement of our screen dance award here.
BEIRA AND BRIDE
From the city, weary work and toil,
Follow the river, climb the glen
Till we reach the high hills
Where from the Cailleach’s cave
Light spills out before winter’s dark.
There old mother Cailleach milks her deer
Sacred hinds of the mountain.
And beside her the old bodach
Father of time and season
Tends the fire and makes dreams.
Scatter, cast, catch
Those precious sparks, dream makers.
Photo by Bjorn Snelders/unsplash
Lined weathered wise – winter
Changes Cailleach’s face to hard
Beak nosed Beira.
Like a giantess she strides the land
Washes her cloak in the whirlpool
Lays it white and frozen
Mantling frost, snow, ice
Covers, smothers all sign of life.
Beira locks her daughter
Gentle Bride of the springs and herbs
Fast in the mountain, rock beaten
Shut by iron blows,
She unleashes the storm blasts
Wild goats of the wind gusts
And the black swooping wings of death.
Photo by Edward Penna/unsplash
Now Bride is slave and skivvie
Sent out to wash the filthy fleeces
Breaking open icy streams
Hands chapped, chilled to the bone.
Till one cold sunrise she sees
Green cress below the ice
Then snowdrops nodding on the bank
Frail flower heralds of spring.
Soon ducklings bob in the melting stream.
‘Tell her, tell her’ says plant, and flower and bird –
‘Beira’s time is ending,
Her power is waning.’
Photo by Simon Berger/unsplash
But Beira will not yield, adamant,
She beats shut the rock hard mountain
She drives anew the wild storm’s rage.
She holds back the rising sun-
White horsed Angus in his golden prime
Forced back by sleet and hail.
Yet the primroses are pushing through
Tree buds stretch and strain
Till the mountain gates swing open
And Bride comes wandering free.
Photo by Patrick Hendry/unsplash
Goddess of Spring, and healing arts,
Bride spreads her cloak of moss and blossom
Mantling green seedful earth.
All shifts, stirs, rustles, reaches to the sun.
Bride will welcome spring and summer,
Life and love.
But Beira turns aside to ride
The failing storm to the last ramparts
Of rock and ice, the wailing wind.
With fading strength, a frail boat
She pushes out through lapping seaweed
Fronds, gulls wheel and cry.
Photo by Rosie Steggles/unsplash
Calming waves soothe, carrying Beira
Rise and fall, rise and fall,
Resting once more like Cailleach.
Harsh features worn softer
Old mother crone can slumber,
Under a crescent moon,
Until first grey dawning,
Far west, far shore boat bumps aground.
Out she crawls with last failing breath
To touch the well of the water,
Three drops of life on Cailleach’s tongue.
She will sleep and dream of milking deer
On the high hills
And mountain fire and bodach love.
She will return in season as gentle Bride
To begin the dance once more.
Photo by Mckayla Crump/unsplash
In August 2022 Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland was awarded British Council funding for a new screen dance commission. This autumn we were busy across Edinburgh and Cairo, choreographing and performing for the camera. The world premiere of the new screens dance is planned as part of our Pomegranates 2023 festival. The screen dance teaser will be released online during COP27 running 6–18 November 2022 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
Our screen dance commission is funded by the British Council’s Creative Commissions Egypt for COP27, designed as part of British Council Climate Connections programme.