The Monkey King - From the Fairy’s Perspective
Part of the fun with story-based dances is in the different roles we get to play—from deities to imperial consorts to female warriors. I enjoy being a peach-picking fairy the most.
In this season’s scene from the classic novel Journey to the West, we revisit the story of how the Monkey King came to be. As our emcees suggest, the story is quite “simple”: The Monkey King bursts out of a rock, flies up to the heavens, eats a lot of peaches... and here come the heavenly fairies.
Fourteen peach-picking fairies like myself descend from the Jade Emperor’s Celestial Palace, wearing beautiful dresses in shades of pale yellow, coral, and fluorescent emerald, and with baby pink sashes hanging from green cuffs around our wrists—I really feel like I am up in the heavens.
We gently hold our delicate baskets, making our way to the heavenly garden to pick the finest, ripest peaches of eternal life for the Jade Emperor’s banquet. Just then, we’re interrupted by a silly monkey taking a snooze in one of the peach trees. He jumps down from the tree, frightening us with his angry looks, and demands to know why he was disturbed from his nap.
One fairy explains the situation, and the grumpy Monkey turns happy, eagerly asking whether he’s invited to the heavenly banquet, too. He isn’t. He gets angry and threatens us by brandishing his golden-banded staff. Fortunately, the Taoist immortal Taibai Jinxing flies down just in time to stop him. We fairies huddle in a corner while the Taoist explains the situation to the excitable Monkey, again.
Sometimes I find it funny watching the Monkey King’s expressions. He’s obviously confused, because he asks the Taoist if he’s invited to the banquet, again with a huge smile. Silly Monkey. I presume he thinks he’s allowed to come with that grin, but the answer is still no.
The outraged Monkey’s jaw drops, his nostrils flare. He starts jumping up and down and waving his stick ready to let out his anger. Luckily, the heavenly guards come just in time to battle the Monkey while we escape back to the palace...
In our absence, the Monkey King defeats the heavenly guards and triumphantly starts flying toward the palace. But then he’s grabbed by Buddha, helped by a goddess, handed to a monk, and sent on a journey. Simple!
April 5, 2012