The Ancient Persian Empire, at the height of its rule, spanned from the Balkans/Eastern Europe, down to Egypt and across to the Indian border. It was ruled by different dynasties for thousands of years, from 6 BC to 20th Century AD. Because of this vast geographical area, there are many cultures that contribute to the Persian population, each one with it’s own unique dance style. We can categorize these styles into 4 genres:
1. Solo Dance/Classical/”Art” Dance
2. Chain and Line Dances
3. War/Combat Dance
4. Spiritual/Ritual Dance
Classical “Art” Dance is a reconstruction of the Court Dances of Safavid and Qajar. This style is typically improvised and characterized by graceful, delicate, tender movements of the upper body such as wrist circles, arm circles and small head movements. Professional dance companies have set beautiful choreographies in this style and it is performed at weddings, birthdays and in celebrations such as Norooz. Costuming for this style includes luxurious velvets, silks and brocade with rich embellishments.
Chain and Line Dances Includes a various cultural styles such as Azerbajiani, Kurdish, and Iranian tribes. One of the most popular (and one that Sahlala Dancers performs) is called Bandari which comes from Southern Iran (Bandar means port, so coming from the port of Iran) has African and Arabic influences in both music and movement. This style is great for our audiences to get up and join us.
Some examples of War or Combat dances are a sword dance (Shamshir) or Raghs - e-Pa which showcase impressive footwork.
Spiritual/Ritual Dances such as the Sufi or Darvishan require the dancer to continuously spin, sometimes for several hours. It is a trance-like dance, putting the dancer into a meditative state, believing the dancer’s body becomes a vessel that channels the energy from a higher power into the earth.
Sources: Pontia Fallahi, Dr. Laurel Victoria Gray, Persians Are not Arabs, Wanderlust Herald, Dr. Peyman Nasehpour