Reviews for The Women's Dance
Dragon made me do it chapter 1 . 8/7/2011
oh wonderful, and it's about time one of us actually wrote a story set in Australia. you have really captured the imagery of the land as well. if this set somewhere in particular or just somewhere you made up?

I particularly liked the following lines:

'His unspoken question, conveyed by a flick of his eyes, was why?'

'Country was formed and reformed by the dance steps of the living things all around her. Except hers.'

'"This isn't your land anymore." was like saying your mother wasn't yours anymore' - particularly relevant now!

And the ending ... '"I sang you into a swan. Them bad men come looking for a piccaninny, they gonna find nothing but a beautiful swan."' - I didn't think a story so sad could have a realistic happy ending but somehow you manage to make it work.

Really awesome, I wish I could go back in time and vote for these things!

Spelling/grammar/pedantry etc:

I did wonder whether you deliberately played with the grammar in some of these lines but since it wasn't dialogue I will assume that this is not the case.

'the coals of shone' - is this supposed to be 'the coals shone'?

'Her stomach melted in just same way as if he were before her now.' - 'the same way' (unless this is an example of what I mentioned above)

'One by one her sister-cousins dropped out and wet to sleep.' - 'went to sleep'

'The stars danced over head to rhythm of their chant.' - overhead is one word?

'The stars dance became wilder and blurred' - 'The stars' dance...'

'They smashed them their clubs into everything.' - 'smashed their clubs' (again unless this is an example of the above)

'"s'my fault," Wirri was crying, "men...' capitals at the start of the dialogue.
lianoid chapter 1 . 2/28/2011
Okay, wow. I chose to review this one because of the title, so how strange is it that this was your submission for WCC LAST February and I'm giving you THIS February's prize review on it. XD


I love these opening because of the imagery. It's simple but it's still strong, and I thought a really great way to begin. It was the silhouette against the evening sky that really left an impression for me, and I thought worked well.


The third paragraph is beautiful. Your writing is always incredibly strong, but even more than that, it's well-rounded in not only technique, but just the life and realistic aspects you give to your stories. I thought this paragraph gave the reader a quick insight into May's culture, and I thought you did it incredibly well, without making it obvious.

She curled deeper into the sand, still warm from the sun's long loving.

-Love the "sun's long loving" part. I thought that was really creative phrasing there, and, of course, love the bit of personification.


She remembered as if he were before her now, the muscles in his arms bulging beneath the animal's weight, his smile filled with quiet pride. Her stomach melted in just same way as if he were before her now.

-Personal: I would see if you remove or change the second "before her now" from this part, just because it seems a tad repetitious. Nothing major, of course, just thought I'd mention it. :)

One by one her sister-cousins dropped out and wet to sleep.

-Edit: Ohp, I believe you want "wet to sleep" to be "went to sleep".

The stars danced over head to rhythm of their chant.

-Personal: I might toss a "the" before "rhythm".

The stars dance became wilder and blurred, and she slept.

-Edit: I believe you want "stars" to be "stars'" with an apostrophe. :)

They smashed them their clubs into everything.

-Edit: I think you want just "their" not "them" as well.


This is an incredibly powerful piece, Sophie. I mean, all your work is amazing and powerful in different ways, but you always manage to imbue your work with culture in an authentic way that is just so damn amazing. I really enjoyed reading this piece because it differs from A Puppet In The Hand, which I'm more familiar with than your other work. In a way, it reminds me of Khmoc because of the tragedy, and foreign (to me) setting. I thought this was beautifully written, and I certainly was not expecting her tribe to be attacked and the children taken. Brilliant piece, Sophie, I truly enjoyed it.
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The Saturday Storytellers chapter 1 . 3/30/2010
The first paragraph looks great, but I think you need more description of the dancing to get the reader more into the story. There's not quite enough of it at the moment. Perhaps aim for another three or four sentences.

It looks like this might be a general theme throughout the story: it needs a bit more description all the way down to get the reader *experiencing* it all more. What you have written is lovely, it works beautifully, it's just that this reader could use a bit more of it!

"May pulled tiny leaves from the bush she hid behind..." I thought at first this means one leaf at a time, but later when you say she can keep up the leaf-sprinkling for some time it sounds more like she managed to pull lots of them off in one go.

"...a woman's dance should show the weight of her responsibilities, tying her forever to the land. And till she learnt to dance properly, she could not join the ceremony to make her a proper woman." This is a lovely touch, and a strangely familiar one. While I'm not light and floaty, I do have a problem with any kind of dance lessons because I 'travel' too much. Whenever steps are needed I make them too big and end up in another dance student's path. So I have an idea what May's predicament feels like!

The bird metaphors work well, too - they add a light, but distinctive, culture to the story.

The timing of this:

"Eyes glowing in the gathering dark, the coals of shone. The women danced on. May gave up tormenting her sanctuary bush. Airy tendrils of the smell of roasting kangaroo crept from the ash pit. Lifted of the weight of the days heat, the night hummed with life.

Hands grabbed her from the darkness. She stifled a shriek. The grinning face of her little brother peered into her moonlit face."

Doesn't feel quite right to me. Perhaps a scene break is needed, or a change in paragraph structure to make clear that time has passed and that May's circumstances are different (presumably she'll have moved by the time she'd caught?). But it all feels a bit... glossed over, maybe.

"She had hidden all day behind her bush, keeping to the sanctuary of its shadow. " Ah, if she wasn't meant to have been there, I think you could have informed the reader of that at the beginning of this story - the fact that this is only revealed at this point feels a bit pushed in at the last moment.

It might also help to clarify who Maliki is. I gather he's either a shaman or the tribe leader, or something? Just give his title when you mention him and that should help provide structure to the rest of the sentence, show just why he's outwardly noticing that May is there.

"One by one her sister-cousins dropped out and wet to sleep. " Went?

"Ants samba'ed a line at May's feet. " This is a lovely line, full of character!

There needs to be a scene break when May falls asleep and then wakes up again - time has past, but having the paragraphs right next to each other makes it look too instantaneous.

"The swing of a stirrup iron swung overhead. The crunching thud as it contacted a living skull. Maliki's protests silenced." Oh dear. An attack? This paragraph sounds at once too lucid and too free of description. And perhaps too facturl - if this is all that May is experiencing, should she not be confused? Frightened?

" was like saying your mother wasn't yours anymore. It made no sense." Very nice perspective on the natives' situation. Well-put.

The overall pacing of this story - May's disappointment at being a poor dancer, the attack, the remainder of the tribe picking up the pieces is very well-put-together. And so...*beautiful* that May and the other women find comfort in the fact that the world around them - after the attack - is still as it always was. There's a real earthy beauty to that.
Constantine Westwood chapter 1 . 3/28/2010
Characterization: I like that you give us a personal anchor in the culture through May. Rather than just make it a natives vs. Others story, you start us off with a girl from these people who has problems and dreams and all that good stuff. It makes the interruption of the dance and all the subsequent mayhem much more upsetting. My one issue is that "May" sounds like a Western name in a decidedly non-Western culture.

Exposition: You did a good job detailing the culture in so compact a space. Right off the bat we have hints of a creation myth, cultural values, and gender relations, and it never feels like a text book. We know exactly where May stands and we care when the dog-men literally trample all of this subtlety underfoot.

A few questions: That said, I do get a little confused in the second half. What's a stirrup iron, and in what way do they swing overhead? Thinking of a gun as a club seemed interesting, but a little confusing - if these dog-men are a well-known feature in these parts, surely one would know that those big things they carry aren't exactly clubs. Most significantly, I find myself wondering if these are actual part human, part dog folks; you mention that they get their names from their behavior, but does this mean they're all called dog-men because of their behavior or that each dog-man receives a name based on his behavior?

Diction: You generally did a good job with your diction, but consider the following:

"No way was she going to be left behind" - "No way" is a sudden dip into modern English slang; it stands out in the rest of your diction.

You also refer to Wati's bringing the kangaroo back as the end of a ceremonial cycle; considering that the prolonged hunt was not an actual ceremony, I think "traditional cycle" or "ritual cycle" (how is it a cycle, btw?)

"The hand pressed over his mouth felt warm tears dribble over it." - I feel like we're attributing undue sentience to the hand here. Make it about what she felt on her hand, not what the hand felt.

Overall, I liked it! You give the reader some nice emotional attachment, an impressive feat for a story of 2.2k words!
natmarie chapter 1 . 2/16/2010
Nice flowy piece that mixes a sort of history with a present. You make each word count and your dialogue and imagery help the reader feel part of the piece. Nicely done.
in theory chapter 1 . 2/9/2010
I really enjoyed this, your dialogue feels so natural. Good luck in Feb's WCC :)

Narq chapter 1 . 2/6/2010
Wow. Really empowering short story.

I wonder if the girl is REALY a swan now!

I found it really compelling, and I held my breath the whole way through, so great work.
Sercus Kaynine chapter 1 . 2/6/2010
"One by one her sister-cousins dropped out and wet to sleep."

-Pretty sure you meant "went".

Woah, your interpretation of the prompt was pretty literal but you had such a twist to it! I love the subtlety you used to present (by never saying outright that they were in Australia), and the story and descriptions were beautiful.

Good job and good luck in WCC!
Michael Howard chapter 1 . 2/4/2010
"One by one her sister-cousins dropped out and wet to sleep."

Change 'wet' to 'went'

"They smashed them their clubs into everything."

Remove 'them'?

Very good one shot here with plenty of your characteristically creative and evocative phrases and word choices on display. (Although I had a bit of trouble with 'samba' and 'waltz' because they pulled me out of the P. O. V. mindset of this Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century Aboriginal girl).

Also, I'm all for happy endings but I'd like to see this one clarified just a bit. Does the Grandmother really have the power to magically protect May? If so, why not the "sister-cousins" too? And if the swan promise was a white lie of reassurance, could that make May dangerously incautious in the future when the dog-men come back?

Or am I just too literal minded for my own good?

More importantly, what does roasted kangaroo taste like?
Faithless Juliet chapter 1 . 2/3/2010
I really liked how you presented the concept of the tribal dance throughout the piece, and the sense of community that that gave off was very strong. I could really see this group of women, a strong line of them dancing for their ancesters in the desert.

I'm assuming that you meant for the piece to take place in Austraila, what with the kangaroo roasting an all that. Some of the concepts sounded a bit similar to the movie of the same title, especially the line about taking the girls to the mission, but that was fine.

Overall This is a very clever piece, I enjoyed what you did with the prompt. It's also a strong gender related piece, and could also act as a staple for the western movement invading prviously strong cultures, as well as neocolonialism. Keep up the good work.

Much love,

lookingwest chapter 1 . 2/2/2010
Feet sliding through the dust, the rhythmic thump of heels hitting ground. The women’s bent forms silhouetted against the evening sky.

-Love this opening scene, I can really see the image and I'm liking it!

Boys, no matter how small, were not allowed at women’s business.

-I love the earthy intentions of this story so far, especially this line, it just really reminds me of something from the past or some ancient ritualistic society...or not, haha, but I just love the little restrictions that you add to hint at the bigger picture while still staying within a short story narration.

“Nah. You dance like a boy. Jumping. Floating. Flashy and that.”

-XD, Love the tie in of the overall theme, and I like how you go for that direction of gender bias moments too. I dunno if "floaty" is the way a boy dances though, maybe more like "stiff" or "jerky"-I always forget though that boys CAN dance, just not my BF!

“Nah, it’s that new law. Mission wants ‘em.”

-Tension! Yes! But: D:

“I sang you into a swan. Them bad men come looking for a piccaninny, they gonna find nothing but a beautiful swan.”


Ah, I love this! I loved the earthy connotations again, the back history that's hinted at, it's everything! I didn't find any grammar or spelling mistakes and the narration was really smooth, I loved this piece! Wonderful!