Document Type



Dance (Pomona), Theatre (Pomona)

Publication Date



choreophobia, dance in an islamic context, regional folk dances, solo improvised dance


Two basic types of dance are performed in this Iranian cultural sphere, and in the Middle East generally. The first is regional folk dancing, most often (but not exclusively) performed in groups. The second is solo improvised dance (sometimes referred to as majilesi 'social' or 'party'). This second form often evokes a strongly negative reaction, reflected, now as in the past, in attempts to ban public performances of solo improvised dance and to marginalize professional performers. People in this area of the world sometimes seem to have what I call a "choreophobic" mentality; yet the same people who might condemn a solo performance in one context will happily perform a solo dance in another context--for example, at a wedding--and despite political bans in both Iran and Afghanistan, people will put themselves at risk of severe penalties to perform solo dances at weddings. Evidently, then, solo improvised dance is an ambiguous symbol in Iranian society, powerful but at the same time highly negative. It is nonetheless loved, performed, and frequently staged--at present in the United States and formerly throughout the Iranian cultural sphere.


Copyright Routledge © 2002 From "Dance in Iran" in The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: The Middle East, Part 3 "Music Cultures and Regions", Section 7: Iran, pps. 875-879, by Anthony Shay. Reproduced by permission of Taylor and Francis Group, LLC, a division of Informa plc.

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© Routledge 2002