Iranian Dance Music

Iranian Dance Music – Persian dance appears to be an obscure genre, often confused with other popular Middle Eastern dance styles such as Egyptian belly dance. In fact, most of the West equates Persian dance with belly dance, while in Iran it is known as Raqs-i-Arabi or Arab dance. However, many Middle Eastern dance scholars are aware that Persian dance exists as a distinct form, but the lack of teachers and the lack of knowledge about Persian dance and its history prevent them from becoming familiar with it.

Dance, music and food are a big part of Persian culture. Family and friends often get together to enjoy each other’s company, prepare big parties, play traditional and modern music, sing old and new songs, and dance. In all kinds of celebrations, be it Yalda (Winter), Mehrigan (Autumn Season), Nowruz (Spring and Persian New Year), or simply a birthday, wedding or any other happy occasion, Persians incorporate dance. Incidentally, these ceremonies are multi-generational, so the dances are transmitted from generation to generation. Professional dancers often perform dances that come from these family and community dances.

Iranian Dance Music

There is some ambiguity regarding the use of the terms Persian and Iranian, although they are generally used interchangeably, the former referring to race and the latter to nationality. About 2,500 years ago, Iran, a country on a map defined by geographical boundaries, was ruled by the Persians, an Iranian tribe in Persia (present-day Fars Province). According to linguist Kurosh Angali,

Chub Bazi ((stick Game); An Iranian Folk Dance

Under the Persian Empire (550-330 BC), founded by Cyrus the Great, it stretched from northwest China to Egypt and Libya (southwest) and from Anatolia to Lydia (north- west), including Central Asia. East and Middle East. (Personal interview, 2014)

Descended from the ancient Persians, today’s Persians are the dominant ethnic group in Iran. Many ethnic groups such as Kurds, Lors, Baloch, Armenians, Assyrians, Turks and Arabs live in Iran and have their own Iranian language or dialect, customs, music and dance. However, all Iranians learn to speak, read and write Farsi (also known as Persian), the official language of Iran.

So, what is Persian/Iranian dance like? Well, there are different types, which I will briefly describe, compare and contrast.

For nearly two decades I have explored this rare and beautiful art form, and in an effort to create a clear definition of Persian dance I have identified three genres.

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Popular dances, tribal, regional and often part of rituals and social ceremonies, are the most ancient and basic of all other genres. A group of dancers can have many races and both sexes. These dances are for the enjoyment of the participants and are not intended to be viewed by the audience. Iran has different tribes (sometimes several tribes in one region) that speak their own dialects and follow their own customs. Just like the language, dances, music and clothes of each region are different. For example, performers of a folk dance in the northern region just below the Caspian Sea in Gilan province, known as the Gilaki dance, wear long skirts with many stripes at the bottom and fringed scarves on their heads. . Moves include strong hip isolations and Bishkan, a Persian figure that uses both hands.

Another popular folk dance from the southern region of the Persian Gulf is called Bandri and is very similar to the Khalji, a popular dance in many Middle Eastern countries. The word Gulf refers to the two styles of Gulf dance of the Gulf region, one in the borders of Iran and the other in many countries around the Persian Gulf. The word Bandar, meaning port, refers to the famous Bandar Abbas in the Persian Gulf in southern Iran. This dance style seems so different from Galaki that it is difficult to imagine the two dances existing in the same country. The movements of the monkey dance are very much based on the African dance, with the hands often open and moving. Shoulder and hip shimmies are the signature moves of this dance style. The rhythmic structure and musical instruments used vary from region to region, and the dress is a long dress with trousers underneath decorated with pearls, sequins and gold or silver thread.

The folk dances of northwestern Iran, where Turkish speakers live, are very similar to those of the neighboring countries of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey. These dances consist of fast, rhythmic foot patterns with upper bodies and elegant arm movements. The dance of the athletic men consists of a rapid tumbling and standing, jumping and turning on the knees to the rhythm of the music.

The social dance, or raqs-e-mahmouni (party dance), sometimes called raqs tehra-ni (meaning urban dance as opposed to country dance), is mainly performed in urban areas of Iran in festive social events and social events. Persian dance parties and dance clubs in Danspora where dancing is allowed (public dance performances have been banned in Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979). This dance style is informal, meaning that it does not require formal training, but embodies the aesthetics of Persian culture in a detailed and sophisticated way. A Western-trained ballet dancer spends years mastering the body through the discipline of specific challenging movement exercises to perfectly execute the choreographed movements. A trained dancer is also familiar and can explain the exact pattern of movement. An untrained or intuitive dancer can dance for expression without paying attention to movement patterns. In the context of social dancing, Persians have no formal training in dance, often with little knowledge of their movement patterns and no deliberate mastery of their bodies, and can perform authentic Persian movements to Persian music in an intelligent way and often with great skill. Depending on the dancer’s ability, the movements can be moderate and repetitive or innovative, dynamic and fun.

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My experience teaching non-Persians has led me to the conclusion that it is more beneficial for a non-Persian dancer to have formal training in this style of social dance. The technique involves many subtle and complex cultural nuances, and much of the style depends on the dancer’s response and interpretation of the music, if the dancer is not immersed in Persian culture at an early age. His intuitive understanding of movement styles and music may not be enough to master it.

Over the years, I have wondered about the appropriate etiquette for my dance style. I hesitate to call it “court dance” because I did not perform it in Persian courts, and it is not a replica of the dance historically performed in Persian courts. Sometimes I call it art dance, but that title seems a bit vague to me. I often use the term Persian classical dance to distinguish it from Persian dance and folk dance. However, the word classic often refers to Western traditions, so, unsure of the implications of the term for authentic Persian dance, I decided to look to the dictionary for a guide.

The word classical refers to a structural form established and accepted as a model and is characterized by a focus on balance, proportion and controlled emotions. Most definitions use words like composition, order, and restraint, and at least one defines actual aesthetics as form and texture. We can therefore conclude that the term classic in the context of dance refers to a style of movement that is based on form and structure and has a codified method, limited to live emotional expression. I think all dancers would agree, however, that the emotional element is an essential part of dance, and to limit the emotional expression of the art form would diminish its beauty and hinder its artistic integrity. Since Persian arts such as poetry and miniature paintings are often based on feelings of love and passion, it can be said that the limitation of emotional expression is not very “Persian”. So, let’s look at the part of the definition that means shape and texture.

Many cultures have a formal and symbolic dance structure that can be called a country’s classical dance. For example, India has classical dances that date back thousands of years. These dances are immersed in religious philosophies and rituals and are written in scripts that are followed by choreographers and Indian academics. In the West, classical ballet developed in Europe in the 15th century. It started in Italy and then became popular in France, Russia and finally America. Now it is known and practiced all over the world. It is an established technique in both Indian classical dance and European classical dance.

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