City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Discover the Story of NOOR through Dance Theatre from America


By Lindsay Corr - Posted on 22 January 2013

Felicia Norton in Labyrinth Dance Theater's NOOR

American dance company Labyrinth Dance Theater, Sasha Spielvogel Artistic Director, is making a fleeting visit to Edinburgh at the beginning of February, with NOOR, a solo dance piece performed by Felicia Norton with original music by David Majzlin that tells an important story linking to Holocaust Memorial Day and MESP 2013.

This one off evening on Tuesday 5 February at 7.30pm, also features an historic slide show of Noor’s life, as well as a separate art installation by Rekha Sameer depicting Noor's life and times projected onto Saris that the audience walks through. The program opens with the haunting music of Atzi and James Iremonger's cello and tabla duo, created especially for this occasion.

NOOR is a highly charged work of dance theatre about a Sufi pacifist-turned-allied spy during WWII, which garnered dancer Felicia Norton standing ovations in London, Paris and New York. This is the incredible true story of Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan (1914-1944). A citizen of the world, born in Moscow to an American mother and an Indian father (the classical Hindustani musician and renowned Sufi master, Hazrat Inayat Khan); Noor was stunningly beautiful, kind and loving.

Although she was a pacifist, brought up in a household filled with music and spirituality, and not the stuff that spies are made of, she struggled over the decision to volunteer for the war effort, understanding the importance of human rights and respect for all religions, and felt that she must play a part in opposing the horrors of fascism. Noor was recruited into the shadowy world of Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE), code named Madeleine, and became the first woman wireless operator infiltrated into Nazi occupied Paris and eventually the last communication link between London and Paris. Though the Gestapo had a full description of her, she evaded them through the summer of 1943 even as her spy ring collapsed around her.

Noor could have left Paris had she not been betrayed by a ‘friend.' She made two daring escape attempts from Gestapo headquarters at 84 Avenue Foch, which branded her “a most dangerous person.” and was then sent to prison in Germany where she was chained in solitary confinement. During her capture, interrogation and torture, she never betrayed anyone nor revealed any secrets.

Only months before the camp was liberated, Noor was taken to Dachau on September 13th, 1944 and shot, her last word was “Liberté!” She was posthumously awarded the George Cross for her work in France and for revealing nothing to her interrogators despite extreme torture. France honoured her with the Croix de Guerre, the country's highest honours to a civilian for acts of bravery during war time. A bust of Noor by sculptor Karen Newman was unveiled by the Princess Royal on November 8th, 2012 in Gordon Square where Noor lived in London after her family fled Paris.

In Labyrinth Dance Theater's NOOR, her story is told through dance and a multi-layered soundscape, composed by Emmy-nominated David Majzlin which weaves together Noor's poems, musical compositions, and her translation of The Elephant Tale, interspersing them with Morse code, political speeches, voices, letters, and music of the era.

Felicia Norton expresses Noor’s journey with delight, strength and dignity. Noor’s compassion for victims of Nazi oppression and her courageous effort which cost her life is a moving and relevant story that needs to be told for a younger generation.

Ms. Spielvogel's father escaped the Holocaust from Vienna and vowed to rebuild cities after seeing Europe destroyed. He eventually settled in America, studying at the Edinbugrh College of Art along the way. This is Sasha's way of repairing the world through dance.

Ms. Norton studied Sufism with Pir Vilayat Khan, Noor's brother, who said that not a day went by when he did not remember Noor's beauty and feel the pain of what she went through. This too is Ms. Norton's way of remembering that we must always rise to do the right thing - to save innocent people who want only the freedom to worship as they choose.

Praise for NOOR:
“The highlight of the show was Labyrinth Dance Theater’s ‘NOOR’. Performer Felicia Norton’s outstanding physical storytelling told the true life story of a brave woman who worked in occupied France as a spy for the Allies during the Second World War until her execution in Dachau.” – Three Weeks, Edinburgh Festival Review

“Felicia Norton’s dancing in NOOR by Labyrinth Dance Theater was nuanced and subtle.” – Amiel Clarke, Edinburgh Festivals Magazine

“Noor Inayat’s life and her heroic death are an inspiration for all the people who have been influenced by the writings of her father, Hazrat Inayat Khan. Her legacy is expressed in sacred aesthetic and artistry in the dance theater piece NOOR. I hope you watch it and in your imagination, dance along so that you might feel her presence in your heart.” – Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

“Fabulous! The work was so haunting it was painful to watch.” – Shelly Rochdale

Tickets are £10 (£8 concession) from the Scottish Storytelling Centre box office on 0131 556 9579 or at www.scottishstorytellingcentre.co.uk

Video: http://youtu.be/R_hm9RcBYY4

N.B Lindsay Corr is Marketing Officer at the Scottish Storytelling Centre