Saturday, 13 July 2013

The Twelve Dancing Princesses make their way to the Mad Tea Party

Once there was a White Queen. The eldest of twelve princesses, she had married a soldier King and the responsibilities of her position weighed heavily upon her. 
The White Queen grew weary of her own company and that of her beloved. She longed to see her sisters, to put her work to one side and to return to the gilded palace where they used to dance in their jewel coloured dresses, to twirl and waltz and tango until their feet were sore and their souls soared with the magic and mischief that only wholehearted dancing brings.
Proposing a mad tea party at her food blog Idle Bakes - like the wonderful one being held by my inspiring friend Vanessa Valencia at A Fanciful Twist right now - she sent word for her dear sisters to join her, and so here they come, dancing their way across the land. But as they do so, let me recount to you their tale. For as you shall discover, despite the poetic fears of a certain Anne Sexton, their story ends very well after all....

this king had twelve daughters,
each more beautiful than the other.
They slept together, bed by bed
in a kind of girls' dormitory.
At night the king locked and bolted the door
. How could they possibly escape?
Yet each morning their shoes
were danced to pieces.
Each was as worn as an old jockstrap.
The king sent out a proclamation
that anyone who could discover
where the princesses did their dancing
could take his pick of the litter.
However there was a catch.
If he failed, he would pay with his life.
Well, so it goes.


Many princes tried,
each sitting outside the dormitory,
the door ajar so he could observe
what enchantment came over the shoes.
But each time the twelve dancing princesses
gave the snoopy man a Mickey Finn
and so he was beheaded.
Poof! Like a basketball.


It so happened that a poor soldier
heard about these strange goings on
and decided to give it a try.
On his way to the castle
he met an old old woman.
Age, for a change, was of some use.
She wasn't stuffed in a nursing home.
She told him not to drink a drop of wine
and gave him a cloak that would make
him invisible when the right time came.
And thus he sat outside the dorm.
The oldest princess brought him some wine
but he fastened a sponge beneath his chin,
looking the opposite of Andy Gump.

      The sponge soaked up the wine,
and thus he stayed awake.
He feigned sleep however
and the princesses sprang out of their beds
and fussed around like a Miss America Contest.
Then the eldest went to her bed
and knocked upon it and it sank into the earth.
They descended down the opening
one after the other. The crafty soldier
put on his invisible cloak and followed.
Yikes, said the youngest daughter,
something just stepped on my dress.
But the oldest thought it just a nail.

      Next stood an avenue of trees,
each leaf make of sterling silver.
The soldier took a leaf for proof.
The youngest heard the branch break
and said, Oof! Who goes there?
But the oldest said, Those are
the royal trumpets playing triumphantly.
The next trees were made of diamonds.
He took one that flickered like Tinkerbell
and the youngest said: Wait up! He is here!
But the oldest said: Trumpets, my dear.
Next they came to a lake where lay
twelve boats with twelve enchanted princes
waiting to row them to the underground castle.
The soldier sat in the youngest's boat
and the boat was as heavy as if an icebox
had been added but the prince did not suspect.
Next came the ball where the shoes did duty.
The princesses danced like taxi girls at Roseland
as if those tickets would run right out.
They were painted in kisses with their secret hair
and though the soldier drank from their cups
they drank down their youth with nary a thought.

      Cruets of champagne and cups full of rubies.
They danced until morning and the sun came up
naked and angry and so they returned
by the same strange route. The soldier
went forward through the dormitory and into
his waiting chair to feign his druggy sleep.
That morning the soldier, his eyes fiery
like blood in a wound, his purpose brutal
as if facing a battle, hurried with his answer
as if to the Sphinx. The shoes! The shoes!
The soldier told. He brought forth
the silver leaf, the diamond the size of a plum.

      He had won. The dancing shoes would dance
no more. The princesses were torn from
their night life like a baby from its pacifier.
Because he was old he picked the eldest.
At the wedding the princesses averted their eyes
and sagged like old sweatshirts.
Now the runaways would run no more and never
again would their hair be tangled into diamonds,
never again their shoes worn down to a laugh,
never the bed falling down into purgatory
to let them climb in after
with their Lucifer kicking.

Extract from The Twelve Dancing Princesses, by Anne Sexton, via 1

However, that is not the end of their story.... so let me continue. After an initial sagging like old sweatshirts, the princesses soon discovered both the Women's Liberation movement, and the barefoot dance style of Isadora Duncan. They left home and their controlling father behind, and they continue to dance every night away at the same underground palace, still the best club in town.

Once the eldest princess knew him better, she grew to love her soldier husband, for he treated her as his adored equal. He became the White King, and she the White Queen. They devoted their time to humanitarian work, taking money from the rich in their kingdom to feed the poor. The eldest held on to her favourite shoes and a couple of her magnificent dresses, as keepsakes from those heady dancing days, and she still dances in the club with her sisters whenever the fancy takes her.  No man is the boss of her, of that you can be certain!

She's serving tea at her Mad Tea Party at Idle Bakes right now, do drop by to say hello and eat a homemade rose macaron or two...
Wishing you all a very happy Mad Tea Party!


The Outfits

Apart from the multi-coloured ruffle dress, which I bought relatively recently for my younger brother's wedding from Monsoon, all dresses shown are either vintage or old favourites of mine. The pale pink petal lace up dress I bought for myself as a teenager over 20 years ago.
The Soundtrack
Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending

Dancing photographs taken by me, self portraits using the timer on my little digital camera.
White Queen at the tea party photographs taken by my dear mother.
p.s. the real dancers amongst you will recognise that I can't really remember how to dance, having stopped ballet lessons at the age of 9, but I do enjoy an Isadora Duncan inspired freestyle!

Thanks for popping by, and please be sure you feast with the White Queen at Idle Bakes before you leave.
Now I'm off to visit all your mad tea parties!



  1. Evocative photos of dancing dreams become flesh in a true fairy called Emalina, my dearest friend and inspiration.
    Love, love, love.

  2. What beautiful photos! For me your dancing poses look very professional. And I like the happy end of your story :) Amazing post, Emalina!

  3. I had a lovely time at your Party! Absolutely Delightful!! The treats were divine!
    Please Visit me!


  4. Love your story, the dresses are wonderful! You look like a dancer to me ,you must have a natural born talent. All the pics are Fabulous!

  5. What a fabulous story! I've always loved the 12 dancing princesses!

    Absolutely stunning photos!


  6. How magnificent that the queen discovered feminism and Isadora and that she had a partner that treated her as an equal and ho lovely that her and her sisters can dance the night away!
    All of your dresses, the deserts, the locations and the dancing moves are stunning!
    There is no wrong way of dancing (just like there is no wrong way of drawing), you go with what your body feels at the moment.

  7. Your posts always make me smile and lighten my day! Thank you!!!
    xo ~kim

  8. Emalina, you are an actress extraordinaire!!!! Lovely lovely lovely!!

    Thank you so much for being a part of the Mad Tea Party ♥

  9. What a lovely tea party! The White Queen is lucky to have so many sisters. Your dresses are all beautiful. I thought your dancing poses were great! Happy Partying! ~Michelle

  10. The poem was a lovely accompaniment to those amazing photos. What fun you must have had while taking them!

  11. what a beautiful post. really! you arranged your wonderful photos so brilliant and lovely around that poem that i´m really amazed! you look astonishing and you are a great storyteller. i always feel good when i visit your blog, you are such a beautiful soul!
    have a nice weekend!

  12. A most delightful tea and thank you for inviting me! :-)

    ~ Deb

  13. Well thank goodness for the happy ending. I would have been terribly upset if all those damsels ended up all dowdy and dumb. Long live the White King and Queen!

  14. You're like a dancing fairy... I think I've said this before, but you remind me of Kate Bush. :-)

  15. This is truly an enchanted post. You take on the roles of each of the princesses. No man will ever be the boss of you! I loved this story. You ARE a dancer in your heart.

  16. Lovely post. The red dress is my favorite!

  17. What a beautiful post, that sure was one refined tea party. Love your elegant poses and that Monsoon dress! x

  18. Wonderful I love the tale of the twelve dancing princesses and enjoyed your addition of what happened after.

  19. Oh how I LOVED this post! I am so happy you shared information on your beautiful dresses - which left me in awe. How graceful you are! I am a lover of faerie tales, so I did love this adaptation of Twelve Dancing Princesses. And I thank you for visiting with me, as well! :) Off to Idle Bakes now...Theresa

  20. Beautiful! I am so glad I stopped by. What a lovely party and I really enjoyed the "rest of the story"! Thanks for stopping by my party!

  21. gorgeous tea party!!
    thank you for having me!

  22. Love your dresses and dance poses. Thank you for having me to your other abode!

  23. What a delightful party and post, Emalina! You are such a talented model and artist and writer. Thanks for sharing with Visible Monday.

  24. This is a beautiful post and I think that dancing is one of those things that as long as you are enjoying yourself, it doesn't matter if you are doing it correctly or not!! I think the pictures of you are enchanting!

    Thank you again for visiting me at The Tearoom!

    Wishing you a lovely rest of the Mad Party Weekend!


  25. Very beautiful photography and theme. LOVE your dresses.

    Thank you for your sweet comment.

  26. Ah yay all the outfits up close! Beautiful dresses :)

  27. Ah, a perfect complement to the tea party - champagne and rubies!

  28. So many princesses, and so beautiful! :) I also love the poems, which tell about their journey.

  29. lovely dresses you look lovely x
    thanks for visiting my alice artwork x

  30. Wow, this is great! I should have read this one first! :D I think Anne would be proud of this post. Such pretty dresses!!!

    Thanks for visiting my party and leaving such a nice comment.


  31. Truly enchanting! Glad you told us about Isadora D
    Since i hace been checking your blog, i said to myself she reminds me of someone and this is is it - Isadora Duncan!
    The last pic is so extraordinaire, where di you take that pic, at home?
    The cakes are awesome and cute idea the shoes!



  32. I was truly enchanted by your story, thank you so much for the wonderful party!! And I absolutely love all your vintage clothing. I will definitely be returning to check out more of your blog.


  33. You have the most amazing collection of long, flowing ethereal dresses! They suit you so perfectly! Also you have such a beautiful home and garden, I love seeing photos of it, it's the perfect little English cottage in the countryside *swoon*. I bet it must be amazing to sit and drink tea among such beautiful surroundings!

  34. Amazing pics! So beautiful:)

  35. Beautiful. I had to read it twice I adored every word and photo! Pure Magic!

    Thank you again for a lovely time!!

  36. Emalina, another lovely Tea Party...Beautiful! Thanks so much for the invite♥

  37. Lovely. Your red dress is my favorite. Now I'm off to look for one on Etsy!

  38. So many beautiful dresses! I think the new Monsoon floral one,and the green and bright red ones are my favourites. You always look gorgeous! xxx

  39. Even more magic!! I'm so glad I found your beautiful space here! And what lovely gardens your frolicking in!! : ) Happy Tea Party Times!!!

  40. I am enjoying your magical posts.

  41. I am enchanted and in awe of your beauty and talent. Your dancing poses are graceful and elegant. And each dress has its own magic. I love coming to your blog for each masterpiece that you portray.

  42. Emalina you never cease to amaze me! You are just so wonderful. Your blog always fills me with so much happiness and your dancing princess story has made my day, in fact I may just do a bit of dancing under the stars myself tonight (heres hoping the trees are made of diamonds). xxx

    1. P.S Having just popped over to Idle bakes I am now so grateful for you and your wonderful gluten free recipes! You are my saviour, i'm going to have a go and let you know how I get on. xx

  43. Lovely tale, though I don't believe the ending. Why does the father want to take away the daughters' joy.

  44. You are a angel like dancing.Your dancing poses are so beautiful..

    Pu-erh Tea

  45. Enjoy the different poses, so creative and inspiring. Each one of the dresses is elegant in it's own way. Your post are getting more and more refined in their magic!

    blue hue wonderland

  46. There is such a profoundly wondrous originality to this series of enchanting photographs, dear Emalina. It is as though you've put on a life performance for us through static images. Incredible, joyful, sublimely excellent work!

    ♥ Jessica

  47. The dancing princesses was one of my most favourite fairy tales as a girl so I enjoyed your take on it whole heartedly! Especially the divine images of you dancing your way through the country side in those beautiful dresses. Liked your ending too - long may the princesses keep dancing!

  48. Gosh! So many beautiful princesses! Which one is my fave???? Can't decide! Thanks so much for linking up to 52 Pick-me-up!

  49. Absolutely fantastic post! The stories and images go so well together and you've clearly put a lot of effort into this. The dusty pink dress is so gorgeous.


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