Why Is Dancing Illegal In Iran – There are countless videos of ballerinas doing 32 whips, but what about 50? Golden State Ballet principal dancer Tara Ghasemieh recently posted the feat on her Instagram, tagged #danceforIran, marking 50 days of protests in Iran.
Persian-born Tara has been campaigning to raise awareness of the widespread protests against the Iranian government following the death of Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody last September after being arrested for wearing a headscarf “inappropriately”.
Why Is Dancing Illegal In Iran
“People don’t realize that all forms of Western dance are banned in Iran, including ballet,” Ghasemieh says. “There is no artistic freedom. Can you imagine risking your life to dance?
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Ghasemieh is an Iranian-American, born in the United States to an American mother, and her Iranian-born father immigrated shortly before the 1978 Iranian Revolution. She was educated locally in Orange County, California, before moving to New York to attend the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of American Ballet Theater at age 16. At JKO, a pre-existing back injury worsened, interrupting his training and forcing him to take four years of ballet. .
At age 20, she returned to the studio with young dancers in Orange County with Festival Ballet Theater, a student company that brought in leading guest artists. She retrained, hoping to one day realize her dream of dancing with ABT or a similar company. Within months, the Festival Ballet was hiring her to play leading roles, often alongside ABT principal dancers, such as Lilac Firey in Gillian Murphy’s Aurora in
. In 2021, she joined the Golden State Ballet, as did her husband, former San Francisco Ballet principal dancer Victor Luiz, with whom she has three children.
As her dance flourished, she realized she could not share her art with her family in Iran. Her father did not even want to visit him because he was afraid that her dancing would endanger his safety. She managed to meet her Persian family only once, in Dubai.
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“This visit was a turning point for me,” says Ghasemieh. She wanted to find a way to combine her Persian roots with ballet. Working with journalists and researchers, she discovered that before the revolution in Iran there was a world-class dance company, the Iranian National Ballet. “This whole story wasn’t kept alive and I felt called to do something about it.”
“I said, ‘Am I the first Iranian prima ballerina in the United States?’ I was proud, but also a little sad. I don’t want to be the only one,” she says. “I want to use this visibility to make a change.
With this realization, her dream changed – from dancing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York to performing at the Roudaki Hall in Tehran (changed to the Vahdat Hall after the revolution) and representing Iran in the Western ballet world.
, tells her story as the only Iranian-American ballerina and the subsequent rise and fall of the Iranian National Ballet, as well as the exile of its dancers for 44 years. She directed and choreographed with Louise the evening piece The White Feather, which tells the story of Iran. The play is a project of Ghasemieh and Louise’s production company, Intuitv Artship, and will be staged in March at the Irwin Barclay Theatre.
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Ghasemieh and Louise in Scheherazade at the Star Gala Ballet Theater Festival 2019. Photo by Skye Schmidt
Brought another exciting contributor into her world. Ghasemi found El Tousi, an Iranian-American producer and journalist, through a friend to help edit the short film. This led to a currently ongoing documentary on the Iranian National Ballet.
“I wasn’t exposed to dance before I met Tara, but I’m also grateful that she brought it to me,” says Tusi. “It is a part of our history that the regime is systematically trying to erase, and we are working hard to document it and keep our heritage alive.”
“When I saw her live, I was sad. “It was like he was exactly where he was supposed to be,” says Tusi.
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Ghasemieh’s peers at the Golden State Ballet have been very supportive of her efforts, though she wants more members of the dance community to speak out on social media, for example using #danceforIran in their posts. But understand that protesting against the Iranian regime can be terrifying. Ghasemieh sometimes receives hateful and even threatening messages on social media. But she is not discouraged.
In this screenshot from a video posted on YouTube in 2014, Iranians dance to Pharrell Williams’ hit song “Happy” on a rooftop in Tehran. In Iran, some see dancing in public as a promotion of Western culture.
It was a bit of fun: the kids sang and danced to a popular Persian pop song. But when hardline Iranian authorities saw the videos, posted on social media by teachers from several schools, they were unfazed and expressed their anger.
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“The enemy is trying in various ways to create anxiety among people, including spreading these disturbing videos that we have seen in cyberspace,” Iranian Education Minister Mohammad Batai said last week. “I am sure there is some political conspiracy behind the release of these sneaky school clips.
Such outrage is not new. Since the 1979 revolution that overthrew the shah, conservative Islamic clerics have sought to reduce or eliminate the influence of Western culture. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, for example, tried to ban all music from radio and television as he tightened control over the growing Islamic Republic.
But with the growing popularity of social media platforms, Iran’s efforts to remain insular are more at risk than ever. Indeed, the kinds of entertainment that radical authorities have long detested are now proliferating and spreading through society at a rate greater than they can control.
“These viral videos are holes in the Iranian government’s controls and the Internet has opened them up thanks to easier access,” said Holly Dagres, an Iran expert at the Atlantic Council. “In the eyes of hardliners, messaging apps and the Internet have become centers of incitement against the state.” Without their control over the flow of information, it could become a liability for hardline authorities.
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Now members of Iran’s parliament have launched an investigation to identify those responsible for the viral videos, and some say they should be fired and brought to justice.
Education Minister Batai announced last week that authorities had assembled a team of three “experts” to track down the school’s administrators and teachers.
Ministry spokesman Masoud Sagafi said several schools in Tehran were under investigation, including a primary school, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
According to reports in Iran, the videos were part of an online “dance challenge” to mark the country’s Teachers’ Day, which takes place every year on May 2.
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More info More info oCPcJ08i3 — Afkham (@m_afkham) May 4, 2019
They show children from different schools dancing and singing to the song “Gentlemen” by Iranian singer Sasi Mankan from Los Angeles.
Sassi, real name Sasan Heydari, has been one of Iran’s most famous underground rap singers for nearly twenty years. During the disputed 2009 presidential election, Sassi was living in Iran and supporting reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi.
In one video, dozens of children in blue uniforms can be seen clapping along as they sing the lyrics in unison. In another, children smile as they jump up and down and sway to the same popular tune.
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Sassi, who responded to the backlash, posted several of the videos on his Instagram account and appeared to poke fun at the conservatives who were investigating.
إينو به سبحام ميتاشرم تا خری باشه تو کش ونایی که میرتین و دتند و دوسا ن د ودان رو pic.twitter.com/6kHmdbhxBu— 🤖Nariman نریمان (@NarimanGharib) May 7, 2019
It is unclear what charges the school officials and teachers could face, but authorities say the dance videos are aimed at destroying the Islamic Republic and that those who do not meet the standards of Iran’s education system should be prosecuted.
Although it is not illegal to sing and dance in private in Iran, it is generally forbidden for men, and especially women, to do so in public. Such activities, according to conservatives, are against Islamic ideals of modesty in behavior and dress.
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“What confuses the Iranian authorities is that their schools are supposed to produce, in their eyes, ideal Islamic youth,” Dagres said. “However, here we have this very young man who is breaking the mold.
Conservative experts told Iran’s Kayhan newspaper and Fars news agency that the school’s teachers and officials committed criminal crimes.
And Iran’s Basij paramilitary force, made up mostly of devout religious volunteers, has asked the education minister to identify those responsible.
“What happened in our country that inspired some students to throw a dance challenge with an obscene, nonsensical song full of bad ideas from underground DJs?” wrote the members of the Basij group.
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