Persian Dances is a programmatic piece conceived around the idea of a possible story told during Scheherezade’s “1001 Nights”. The piece is divided into four dances, each depicting a scene from the story. It begins with several quasi-recitative solos that act as the story teller (Scheherezade) setting the tale for the Prince. As the story begins, nobles enter the grand hall with an air of pompousness, and the melody is traded through the ensemble, depicting each new entrance of one of the royal guests. After everyone has made their way through the throne, the servants quickly take over the scene and begin serving the royal feast in the grand hall.
The jollity fades away, though, as the evil Grand Vizier enters the dining hall. This is then followed by an upbeat dance depicting the seduction of the prince by the courtesans, who are under the Grand Vizier’s control. As the story is beginning to reach the climax, though, the motive of the story teller reenters, as a way of saying “It’s late, and I will have to resume this story tomorrow evening.” The piece then comes to a quick close as the story ends, unfinished.