Document Type

Book Chapter


Dance (Pomona), Theatre (Pomona)

Publication Date



revival dance, Iran, diaspora, cultural objectification, Iranian identity


In this chapter, I look at the various ways in which different individuals--Iranians, Iranian immigrants in the West, Americans, and other non-Iranians--participated in several revival Iranian dance movements, beginning in the 1930s and continuing into the twenty-first century. The new interest in dance that began in this period coincided with a period of incipient modernity and its need to find ways in which to construct a modern national identity. As increasing numbers of Iranians made their way to the West, first as students and ultimately as immigrants and refugees, they discovered that dance as a representational field dovetailed with their need to forge an ethnic identity as Iranians both inside and outside of Iran. Dance, which once constituted a scandal when performed in public, became a new, often glamorous vehicle with which to burnish Iranian identities to new publics.

I open the chapter by discussing the problematic terms "revival" and "revivalist" and by explaining the theoretical and conceptual frameworks I employ to frame my topic. I then provide a brief overview of the historical and cultural context for traditional dance forms in Iran before moving on to describe the creation of new hybrid forms in early twentieth-century Iran and dance performances in both Iran and the diaspora. Finally, I describe and analyze the three broad modes of revivalist dance creation and performance throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.


Shay, Anthony. “Reviving the Reluctant Art of Iranian Dance in Iran and in the American Diaspora” in Juniper Hill and Caroline Bithel, Eds., The Oxford Handbook of Music Revival, pp. 618-643, 2014, reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press.

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