The Classical forms of Persian dance were taught and developed in the royal courts of Iran to be the perfect expression in movement of the deep emotions to be understood in music and poetry for the arts were considered to be indivisible. These are dances to touch the soul and grant a gift of heaven. The dancer wears brightly-coloured costumes for only such are suitable for the heroines of medieval romance who inspire the true artist; the dancer expresses exquisite joy and sorrow, true love and deep despair, and the extravagant ornament of her dress recalls how the shahs and princes of old rewarded the finest court dancers with jewels fit for a princess and the feathered plumes of rare and exotic birds.
Rachel Rafiefar performed Persian dance for Funoon in Rotherham and San'at Mahmudova danced for us in London. Photos: Jo Hirons
The traditional dances of Tunisia are characterised by the continual movement of the hips, alternating between sharp, precise articulations and flowing, circular twists and turns. The dancers also continually shift their weight from left to right, and back again leading one nineteenth century French writer to conclude that, if they were not actually supported on strings like marionettes when they performed, then surely they must be trained to dance by being attached to ropes from an early age, for how else could human beings learn anything other than the usual motion of arms and legs and seem to defy the laws of gravity in doing so.
Our Tunisian tag-team were Nisha Lall, Rachael, Sarah, and Karen who between them brought joyous al-Fazzani dance to all venues except Newport. At Liverpool they were joined by Siobhan and Alex. Costumes by Baladi Bazaar (Beverley Smith). Photos: Jo Hirons
The Hajalla is a wedding dance of the Bedouin of Libya’s coastal region, and of Egypt’s Mediterranean seaboard. Some people think the dancers’ steps and swirling skirts originally mimicked the movements of migrating geese which visit these shores at the end of Summer each year, bringing a time of good food and plenty for all. As with many of the dances taken from ancient traditions and refashioned for the theatre stage and for television, the original meaning has been lost, but the celebration remains.
Amanda, Jill, Rachael, Sarah, Joanne Miller, Nisha Lall, Costumes by Baladi Bazaar (Beverley Smith). Photos: Cecil / Jo Hirons