Perhaps more than any other single aspect of the discipline of folklore, the collection, study, and analysis of narrative arts, storytelling, and storytellers has been a central part of folklore scholarship since the field was founded in the mid-Nineteenth Century. European collectors such as Perreault (France – seventeenth century) and the Brothers Grimm (Germany- eighteenth century) collected and published many of the well-loved “fairy tales” known today, including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Hansel and Gretel. In the twentieth century, American collectors Zora Neale Hurston, Roger Abrahams, Alan Lomax, and others expanded the storytelling canon to include tales with Afro-centric origins. Stories with characters such as Anansi the Spider, Papa Bwa, and the Soucouya, were introduced to a wider audience beyond solely Caribbean and African American communities.Today’s fascination with storytelling is encouraged by the “me” story, fueled by Story Corps, reality TV, Facebook, Snapchat, and a host of other social media that encourages one to tell one’s “story.” This current focus on the individual marks a significant cultural shift away from the historic role of traditional story and storytelling as shared collective expressions intended to stimulate and encourage ideas about family, community, political, secular, and religious values.
If you would like to experience the performative nature of stories, two events are taking place in the Capital District that will provide opportunities. On February 29 (Schenectady) and March 1 (Troy), Nazmo Dance Company will join with folklorists Kay Turner and Rose October-Edun to explore European and Caribbean tales as interpreted through modern dance. Performances will take place at the Schenectady Light Opera and at the Arts Center for the Capital Region in Troy. Tickets can be obtained here: www.nyfolklore.org/grimm.
A second opportunity to hear live storytelling will be the annual conference of Northeast Storytelling. “Sharing the Fire 2020” will offer three days of performances and workshops at the Gideon Putnam Spa and Resort in Saratoga Springs. More information can be found at www.NEstorytelling.org.