Jamileh Kharrazi

Jamileh Kharrazi: Iranian (Persian) Dance


By Jamileh Kharrazi

DANCE (raqṣ). The term dance has been defined as a “transient mode of expression, performed by the human body moving in space . . . through purpose­fully selected and controlled rhythmic movements . . . ”

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. Persian dance history is characterized by many fascinating and also tragic incidents. It seems to be completely unknown to the outside world, partly because of the present political situation of the country that has toned down the interest for a profound research effort. The other reason is the current archaeological discoveries and excavations in Iran, during the past thirty years. They have made it possible to have access to material and evidence for the origin of Persian dance, ever since the appearance of the cult of Mithra about two thousand years before our calendar.

By virtue of these bases, Iran can be considered as one of the ancient world’s empires, which methodically and actively was devoted to the development of the art of dance. For this ancient nation, dancing has been an important social phenomenon and a religious ritual.

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

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.

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.

Ritual or spiritual dances, are often Sufi are known as sama and also a type of zikr (religious chant).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. There is a term in Balochi “gowati” for psychologically ill patients (possessed by wind) who have recovered through music healing, music as medicine. 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.

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.


Jamileh Kharrazi has worked for many years to connect the East and West through Art and culture