Persian dance

Dancing is historically entwined with many cultures around the world. Here, 17th century Persian women dance in a ceremony in Iran.

Persian dance or Iranian dance (Persian:رقص ایرانی) refers to the dance styles indigenous to Iran. Genres of dance in Iran vary depending on the area, culture, and language of the local people, and can range from sophisticated reconstructions of refined court dances to energetic folk dances.[1] The population of Iran includes many ethnicities, such as Kurds, Azerbaijanis, Turkmen, Jews, Armenian, Georgian peoples, in addition to numerous Iranian tribal groups which can be found within the borders of modern-day Iran.[1] Each group, region, and historical epoch has specific dance styles associated with it.[1] Raghs (also spelled as Raqs) is the Arabic word for dance, and is almost exclusively the word used for dance in Persian, as the Persian word for dance, paykubi, is no longer in common usage. It's also the word in Azerbaijani for dance (Reqs). The Kurdish word for dance is Halperke, and the Lurs from Lorestan use the word Bākhten (or Bāzee) for dance.[2]

The earliest researched Persian dance is a dance worshiping Mithra (as in the Cult of Mithras) in which a bull was sacrificed. This cult later became highly adhered in the Roman Empire. This dance was to promote vigor in life.[3] Ancient Persian dance was significantly researched by Greek historian from Herodotus of Halikarnassos, in his work Book IX (Calliope), in which he describes the history of Asian empires and Persian wars until 478 BC.[3] Ancient Persia was occupied by foreign powers, first Greeks, then Arabs, and then Mongols and in turn political instability and civil wars occurred. Throughout these changes a slow disappearance of heritage dance traditions occurred.[3]

After the fall of Persian Empire, when the country was torn into pieces, Iranian women and young girls were enslaved by the new conquerors, often forced into sexual slavery and required to perform erotic dance for new rulers. Religious prohibition of dancing in Iran came with the spread of Islam, but it was spurred by historical events.[3] Religious prohibition to dancing waxed and waned over the years, but after the Iranian Revolution in 1979 dancing was no longer allowed due to its frequent mixing of the sexes.[3][4] The Islamic Revolution of 1979, was the end of a successful era for dancing and the art of ballet in Iran.[5] The Iranian national ballet company was dissolved and its members emigrated to different countries.[5] According to the principles of the “cultural revolution” in Iran, dancing was considered to be perverse, a great sin, immoral and corrupting.[5] As a result, many of the talented Persian dancers moved to the West and spread out mainly in Europe and the United States and new generation of Iranian dancers and ballet artists have grown up in the Diaspora.[5]

Genres of dance

Iran possesses four categories of dance and these genres are; chain or line dances, solo improvisational dance, war or combat dances and ritual or spiritual dances.

Chain or Line dances are often named for the region or the ethnic groups with which they are associated.[1]

Solo dance includes usually reconstructions of Safavid and Qajar Court Dance. These often are improvisational dances and utilize delicate, graceful movements of the hands and arms, such as wrist circles.[1]

War or Combat dances imitate combat, or help train the warrior. It could be argued that men from the zurkhaneh (a traditional Persian style gymnasium) called the “House of Strength” and their ritualized, wrestling-training movements are known as a type of dance called Raghs-e-Pa but could also been seen as a martial art.[1][6]

Ritual or spiritual dances, are often Sufi are known as sama and also a type of zikr (religious chant).[1] There are various types of dancing in a trance for healing practices in Iran and surrounding areas. One healing ritual that involves trance, music, and movement is called le’b guati of the Baluchis of Eastern Iran, which is performed to rid a possessed person of the possessing spirit and appears to be in a similar state as an exorcism.[2] There is a term in Balochi "gowati" for psychologically ill patients (possessed by wind) who have recovered through music healing, music as medicine.[7] The southern coastal regions of Iran such as Qeshm Island have a similar possession by wind ceremony and it is thought that it may be influenced or originated in Africa, particularly the Abyssinian or Ethiopian region.[8]

The word sama, from the Arabic root meaning “to listen,” refers to the spiritual practice of listening to music and achieving unity with the Divine, it is spelled sema in Turkish.[2] Dancing mystics (regardless of their specific religious identifications) are called Dervish.

Contemporary social dances and urban dance performed at festive occasions like weddings and Noruz celebrations focus less on communal line or circle dances and more on solo improvisational forms, with each dancer interpreting the music in her own special way but within a specific range of dance vocabulary sometimes blending other dance styles or elements.[1]

Persian dance styles

This is a list of some of the ancient and contemporary Persian dances, from various ethnic groups within Iran.

Notable Persian dancers

Contemporary and historical Persian dancers

This list of contemporary and historical Persian dancers or choreographers (in alphabetical order, of various dance styles) includes:

Notable Persian dance ensembles

Contemporary dance in Iran

The style of dance found in most cities is called 'raghs' (also spelled raqs) or 'gher dadan' in Persian. Most Persian dancing is entirely performed to 6
time signatures (called "shish-o-hasht"). Most Persian dancing is highly individualistic and relies on solo improvisation in the performance. Typically in raghs dancing, the upper body motion is emphasized, along with hand motions, hip undulations and facial expressions being points of attention. It is often compared to Arabic dance however Persian raghs are very distinct, due to its signature hand movements, and slow circular hip movements as opposed to the rapid hip movements used in Arabic dancing. Often, raghs will be performed at relatively informal gatherings, such as family meetings, where guests will sit in a circle and a couple will dance in the middle, sometimes accompanied by a tompak or other drum however raghs is also used more formally at various social events like weddings.

Gher dadan dance is faster paced, with the upper body and lower body are both emphasized and hip and chest movements are either circular or in a figure '8' movement.

In Isfahan a popular dance among local men involves moving the pelvis in pop and lock fashion.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Gray, Laurel Victoria (2007). "A Brief Introduction to Persian Dance". Laurel Victoria Gray, Central Asian, Persian, Turkic, Arabian and Silk Road Dance Culture. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 Friend PhD, Robyn C. (2002). "Spirituality in Iranian Music and Dance, Conversations with Morteza Varzi". The Best of Habibi, A Journal for Lovers of Middle Eastern Dance and Arts. Shareen El Safy. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Kiann, Nima (2000). "Persian Dance And It's Forgotten History". Nima Kiann. Les Ballets Persans. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
  4. 1 2 Friend, Robyn C. (Spring 1996). "The Exquisite Art of Persian Classical Dance". Snark Records. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Kiann, Nima (2002). "Persian Dance History". Iran Chamber Society. Retrieved Aug 26, 2015.
  6. Nasehpour, Peyman. "A Brief About Persian Dance". Official Website of Dr. Peyman Nasehpour. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
  7. oakling (May 2, 2003). "Bandari". everything2. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
  8. 1 2 Sabaye Moghaddam, Maria (July 20, 2009). "ZĀR". ENCYCLOPÆDIA IRANICA. ENCYCLOPÆDIA IRANICA. Retrieved July 14, 2014.)
  9. "Iranian Raqs e-Bandari". Middle Eastern Dance. 2011. Retrieved Aug 25, 2014.
  10. "Basseri tribe history". Marvdashtnama (Persian). Retrieved Oct 11, 2015.
  11. "PERSIAN (IRANIAN) DANCE & MUSIC". Eastern Artists. Retrieved Aug 25, 2014.
  12. Friend, Robyn C. "Çûb-Bâzî, The Stick-dances of Iran". The Institute of Persian Performing Arts. Encyclopedia Iranica. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  13. Siegel, Neil (2000). "Dances of Iran, Robyn Friend". Neil Siegel. Retrieved October 17, 2014.
  14. Friend, Robyn C. (Winter 1997). "JAMILEH "The Goddess of Persian Dance"". Habibi, (volume 16, number 1). Snark Records. Retrieved October 17, 2014.
  15. "Mina Saleh ( Arizumi)". Mediterranean delight festival. 2010. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  16. "AVAZ International Dance Theatre". Retrieved October 17, 2014.
  17. "Vancouver Pars National Ballet". Vancouver Pars National Ballet. Retrieved October 17, 2014.
  18. "Mohammed Khordadian". Whats Up Iran. Retrieved October 17, 2014.

External links

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