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Dances in Iran or Iranian dances (Persian:رقص ایرانی) are dance styles indigenous to Iran. Genres of dance in Iran vary depending on the area, culture, and language of the local people, and can range from sophisticated reconstructions of refined court dances to energetic folk dances.[1] The population of Iran includes many ethnicities, such as Kurds, Azerbaijanis, Turkmen, Jews, Armenian, Georgian peoples, in addition to numerous Iranian tribal groups which can be found within the borders of modern-day Iran.[1] Each group, region, and historical epoch has specific dance styles associated with it.[1] Raghs (also spelled as Raqs) is the Arabic word for dance, and is almost exclusively the word used for dance in Persian, as the Persian word for dance, paykubi, is no longer in common usage. It is also the word in Azerbaijani for dance (Reqs). The Kurdish word for dance is Halperke, and the Lurs from Lorestan use the word Bākhten (or Bāzee) for dance.[2]


Dancers on a piece of ceramic from Cheshmeh-Ali (Shahr-e-Rey), Iran, 5000 BC now at the Louvre
Dancers on a piece of ceramic from Cheshmeh-Ali (Shahr-e-Rey), Iran, 5000 BC now at the Louvre

The people of the Iranian plateau have known dance in the forms of music, play, drama or religious rituals and have used instruments like mask, costumes of animals or plants, and musical instruments for rhythm, at least since the 6th millennium BC. Cultural mixed forms of dance, play and drama have served rituals like celebration, mourning and worship. And the actors have been masters of music, dance, physical acts and manners of expression. Artifacts with pictures of dancers, players or actors were found in many archaeological prehistoric sites in Iran, like Tepe Sabz, Ja'far Abad, Chogha Mish, Tall-e Jari, Cheshmeh Ali, Ismaeel Abad, Tal-e bakun, Tepe Sialk, Tepe Musian, tepe Yahya, Shahdad, Tepe Gian, Kul Farah, Susa, Kok Tepe, Cemeteries of Luristan, etc.[3]


Seal with a Persian man dancing, Achaemenid period, dated c. 400 BC. Currently housed in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles
Seal with a Persian man dancing, Achaemenid period, dated c. 400 BC. Currently housed in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles

The earliest researched dance from historic Iran is a dance worshiping Mithra (as in the Cult of Mithras) in which a bull was sacrificed.[4] This cult later became highly adhered in the Roman Empire. This dance was to promote vigor in life.[5] Ancient Persian dance was significantly researched by Greek historian from Herodotus of Halikarnassos, in his work Book IX (Calliope), in which he describes the history of Asian empires and Persian wars until 478 BC.[5] Ancient Persia was occupied by foreign powers, first Greeks, then Arabs, and then Mongols and in turn political instability and civil wars occurred. Throughout these changes a slow disappearance of heritage dance traditions occurred.[5]

17th century Persian women dance in a ceremony in Iran
17th century Persian women dance in a ceremony in Iran

Religious prohibition of dancing in Iran came with the spread of Islam, but it was spurred by historical events.[5] Religious prohibition to dancing waxed and waned over the years, but after the Iranian Revolution in 1979 dancing was no longer allowed due to its frequent mixing of the sexes.[5][6] The Islamic Revolution of 1979 was the end of a successful era for dancing and the art of ballet in Iran.[4] The Iranian national ballet company was dissolved and its members emigrated to different countries.[4] According to the principles of the “cultural revolution” in Iran, dancing was considered to be perverse, a great sin, immoral and corrupting.[4] As a result, many of the talented Persian dancers moved to the West and spread out mainly in Europe and the United States and a new generation of Iranian dancers and ballet artists have grown up in the Diaspora.[4]

Genres of dance

Iran has four categories of dance: chain or line dances, solo improvisational dance, war or combat dances and ritual or spiritual dances.

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.[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.[1]

Iranian dance styles

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Basseri dance
Basseri dance

This is a list of some of the ancient and contemporary Iranian dances, from various ethnic groups within Iran.

Notable Iranian dancers

Further information: Category:Iranian dancers

Contemporary and historical Persian and/or Iranian dancers

This list of contemporary and historical Persian dancers or choreographers (in alphabetical order, of various dance styles) includes:

Notable Persian and/or Iranian dance ensembles

See also


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