tehran dance

20 02 2008

[By Shideh]   The art of dancing is truly a gift. It is an amazing feeling – the power in group dances – especially the ones with lots of energy, movement, singing, colors, and joy. I only saw these dances in Indian movies when I was a kid – we never had that experience growing up in Tehran. It seems as if Tehran is the America of Iran, where many people from different villages, cities, and provinces migrate to in order to provide better opportunities for their next generation. It is a busy city with lots of people, high rises, and traffic jams. Tehran has become the melting pot for the country, a city where people from all sorts of backgrounds, cultures, languages, and costumes from around the country migrate to and learn to live next to each other. But in many cases, these individuals sadly forget their own backgrounds and costumes. As a result Tehran may have lost its own unique identity. Perhaps it’s hard to define it or perhaps this is what Tehran’s identity is: a melting pot. But why didn’t I, as a Tehrani girl, ever experience a Tehrani group dance like kids who lived in Gilan, Mashhad, south Bandars, or the nomads of Qashghai experienced?


photo courtesy of Ballet Afsaneh

Now in Berkeley, I am learning dance techniques of classic Persian, Qashqhai, Gilani, Tajik, and Afghani for the first time! And I realize what I had missed all my life. There is so much energy and unity in these dances that words can’t express.

Why not come up with a Tehrani group dance that can create this sort of synergy among the youth of this city? I would argue that group dance would help solve many of the problems that young people are currently facing, such as group work, confidence, and hope. In order not to cause any problems, the classes could be designed for males and females separately.  And this group dance could be colorful even though Tehran and most other cities in Iran have widely lost their old costumes and are using western outfits. And even though most people in Tehran seem to have become extremely “black” oriented – meaning they mostly or only wear dark and black dresses and mantos (overcoats). Perhaps new costumes and dresses could be designed that fit in with the exiting young culture of Tehran – costumes that are a combination of old Iranian and Western styles, but with lots of colors this time. Imagine what a beautiful dance that would be!




18 responses

23 02 2008

Salam Shideh Jan:

What a sweet post and what a wonderful idea!

Persian dance is a somewhat lost art form, unfortunately. I have listened to masters and people “in the industry” talk about this endlessly. In fact if one were to see true Persian dance, they might have to travel to Tajikistan to see some remaining forms of it. After Islam was mandated on Iranians, dance was banished as seductive, and therefore a “sinful” activity. When a people don’t practice any of their art forms, that art dies. About 70 years ago, Iran had a dancing renaissance which not only encouraged social dancing of any kind, a branch of it was dedicated to revival and re-introduction of Persian classical dance, a revival which unfortunately suffered tremendous setbacks over the past three decades.

Though some dance moves (they call them “Harakat-e-Mozoon” are allowed to stage, dancing continues to be a perilous profession and art form in today’s Iran. I have a young friend (well, o.k. she is my son’s friend, but has become my friend, too!), who dances with Farzaneh Kaboli’s dance company. One time the entire cast, including the director, were arrested ONSTAGE at Vahdat Hall and taken into Vozara! My other friend who used to dance with Pari Saberi’s group told me that the actors had to be vigilant and only if there were no Ministry of Guidance Inspectors (Mommayez-e-Ershad, and don’t ask me how they could tell if one or wasn’t in the theater) in their midst, the dance parts were done more vigorously and a bit faster!

I listened to Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam, dancer and choreographer, talk about this subject a few months ago. He believes that Persian dancing left Iran and went into India to become the Indian dance, full of signals and meaningful steps, and to Spain, where it became flamenco. He believes that Persian dancing would have looked something in between the two very different dance styles. He says and he and some other people are researching those steps and moves, hoping to re-create them as choreographers.

Mehdi Jami, who now runs Radio Zamaneh, but for many years worked for the BBC and covered dance all over the world told me that some Tajiki dancers had travelled to Iran over the past decade, hoping to take some lessons in Persian dancing to perfect their already marvelous dance repertoire (Tajiki, Uzbek, Afghani, etc.). He said the dancers complained that they could not find one master who would teach them any moves or with whom they could train.

So, having said all of that, we can’t really put all the blame on Tehrani’s or on what people do today. This sad state has been in the making for 14 centuries. To look at the positive side of things, Iranian dance is among those dances where men and women dance it together. Unlike, for example, belly dancing where women dance half-naked and men sit and ogle, Persian dance invites both men ad women on the dance floor, and has them interact very nicely through moves and feelings. Other Iranian dances which are co-ed, are eye-pleasing and exciting for the same reason; among them I can name Kurdish and Asyrian dancing, where the moves are done in a line or a circle.

OK. I talked too much. Sorry. Dance excites me and I can’t stop talking about it. When we see each other, we can talk some more. Where in Berkeley do you go to class? Maybe I can come, too!

Take care Shideh Joonam.

23 02 2008

Dearest Nazy joon,
thank you for your great comment and all the information. It was really educational. I can tell that you are fascinated with dance from the way you talk about it. You are absolutely right about the history and how dancing became a sort of lost art in our country.
For the first time in my life, however, I met a group who seem to know what they are doing and they have extensive research programs in Tajikstan on Central Asian Dance and Classical Persian Dance that has been preserved in a few villages in Tajikstan (khoshbakhtaneh). This group is based in the Bay Area and they are called “Ballet Afsaneh”. I go to their classes in Berkeley every week, and we are performing at the San Francisco City Hall and the New York Norouz Parade for the Persian New Year. This group has really changed my life and I’m so thankful for their existance and expertise.

Are you interested to come to this class with me? if so, let me know and I’ll give you more details. It is a loooooot of fun

thank you again Nazy joon, take care, and hope to see you soon

15 07 2008


I would like to know where I can learn dancing in Tehran.

Thank you!


17 07 2008

thank you
it was beautiful

17 07 2008

Dear Golnar,
the best instructor that I know in Iran (in classical persian dance) is Farzaneh Kaboli. I will ask about her contact information and will let you know if I find it. I hear it is tough to get into her classes though, as there is high demand and long waiting lists.
Thanks for visiting and stay in touch

1 10 2008

Beautiful dresses. I think you can see some more pictures at http://www.zarinas.com/

18 10 2008

I need more photos.

18 10 2008

I need more photo & Info.

18 10 2008

Hi Bita,
what type of photo and info do you need? If you mean Ballet Afsaneh, I have included their website at the bottom of the picture above. They have many pictures of their performances.
thanks for visiting and stay in touch,

24 11 2008

dear shide
it was really nice.today i met ur webpage here quite accidentally.i was just searching some articles about how i can write a good SOP for graduate school,and i found ur webpage.i enjoyed alot.

8 02 2009

Dear Shideh,
I was looking on the internet for information about classic Persian dance and came across your site. I read both comments about the Tehrani dance company and about the comment that Khanoom Nazy wrote. I totally agree with both of the comments. I’m a dancer and I’m constantly trying to find the source of Persian dance and of course to follow lessons and finding masters who can teach me this beautiful art form. I read that you can maybe help me contacting Khanoom Farzaneh Kaboli or inform me on how I can learn and develope my dance. I live in Germany and I’m willing to travel anywhere. I hope to hear from you.

9 02 2009

Dear Helia,

Thanks for your comment. It’s great to hear that you are trying to find the source of Persian dance. I don’t know Farzaneh Kaboli in person, but know of her. I’ve only heard that she is amazing and one of the best in Iran (I think she is currently in Iran, as far as I know). You might be able to find her information on line.

As I mentioned above, I know of a great dance company, however, here in San Francisco Bay Area (U.S.) whose main focus is Persian and Central Asian Dances. The instructors travel to various places in Central Asia and use different sources to put the pieces together and reconstruct the ancient sacred dances of the Silk Road. The name of the group is Ballet Afsaneh and here’s their website where you can get more information about their history, philosophy, and classes: http://www.dancesilkroad.org/
I truly feel blessed to know this group and to be in the same place. Their classes are simply amazing.

The only other person whom I know is absolutely great in this area (and does a more challenging and creative version of Persian dance), is Mr. Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam in Paris, France. I don’t know how to contact him, but you might be able to find his contact information on line (google).

I hope this is helpful. Please do stay in touch and let me know if you get in touch with one of these three groups.

22 12 2009

are there any classes for couples to dance in Tehran?

23 02 2010
Amir ali

Hi bita jan

i`ll be so glad if u inform me, if u find dance classes in tehran…(for couples)


16 05 2012

i looking 4 class, pleas help

23 02 2010
Amir ali

Thanks for your nice post…

does anybody know salsa or other type of dance classes in tehran??

so appreciate

16 10 2010

omg..i wish i could go young!…like..4yo..and work on those ballet lines..as well as learning other styles while growing up…i’m 18 now..but my joints are to stiff for contemporary dance which i adore!..besides!..who dances the style in tehran?!or iran!..i wish i cud learn them all from chacha ball
room..rumba,salsa to lyrical hiphop annd contemporary….n then someday bring them all 4 iranians!..taze man tu mashhadam..so..gd 4 u in comparison 2 me!!:(

4 06 2014

In north India we have a dance style known as Kathak. This dance has Persian influence on it. Search in YouTube, you will find that the dance moves and clothes are similar to yours.

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