Please out of respect for traditional
dance and the Persian people, we ask that these facts about Persian dance be for
information only and not to be misrepresented by night club or show dancing but
only to be further studied to be possibly eventually performed by very serious
folk and ethnic dancers in a respectful egoless manner. No part of this copyrighted
material which is drawn from publications by Eastern Arts may be used in any way
without written permission from Eastern Arts, Thank you.|
ARYAN - ancient Indo-Iranians, Indo-European speaking people
DASTGAH - mode in Persian music system
GUSHE - section of a mode
MINIATURE - Persian art after which some dance has been created
DARYUSH SAFVAT - Persian music master, ethnomusicologist
RADIF - collection of music sequences
BELOVED - the divine as referred in Persian poetry
SANTUR - Persian hammered dulcimer
TAR - six stringed plucked instrument
SETAR - 4 stringed pluckd instrument
NEI - end blown Persian flute
KAMANCHE - Persian bowed instrument
SHAH NAMEH - ancient Persian epic by Ferdosi, (Book of Kings)
PESHKAN - method of snapping fingers
TUMBAN, SHALVAR - pants
KEMIZ - long shirt
VASKOT - vest
KOLA - hat
CHAHAR QAD - veil
KAMARBAND - belt
SHALITEH - Qajar style short skirt or dress
PERSIAN CLASSICAL MUSIC AND INSTRUMENTS
Iran is one of the most important countries
in the Middle East in the realm of music and dance. The Persian music of the Sassanian period
224-652 A.D., was the basis for present day Persian music and for the music of the entire Moslem
world. In the first millennium B.C., an Aryan people invaded the Iranian plateau in waves coming
over the same Caucasus and Transoxiana routes as they had before; but this time they were not entirely
absorbed by the Asiatic culture or by the inhabitants of the day. After several centuries, these Aryan
people gained mastery of the area and became two powerful civilizations, the Persians and the Medes.
Parthians lived near the Caspian gate and Harawa, the Herat oasis. Other wilder, more destructive Aryan
tribes, the Cimmerians and the Scythians, moved from the north towards Asia Minor. Cimmerians took
over the Southern Black Sea area, and the Scythians most of modern Azerbaijan.
From their arrival until the end of the Achaemenian
reign which lasted from 550-330 B.C., the Persians had a far reaching influence in most of the civilized
world. It is no doubt that with all the political and religious influence they had, as well as the vast
trade network, early Persian music could easily have become the standard for a large part of the known
world and certainly of the Achaemenian empire. Ancient ties existed between India and what is now Iran,
strengthened by common traditions and influenced by each other's language. Indian literature cast it's
influence on the Iranian people as early as the Sassanian period when the Panchatantra, an outstanding
Sanskrit fable, was brought to Iran and later translated by Iranian scholars into Arabic and Persian
prose and poetry. The Moslem culture in India also found it's way to the subcontinent through Iran.
Many Moslem rulers of India had patronized Sanskrit literature by granting special facilities to the
pundits and encouraging translation of the best Sanskrit works into Persian.
Two schools of music developed from the Persian
derived tradition; one was the school of Baghdad and the other was the Cordoba school which later
became the North African and Flamenco system. Persian music master Zaryab and his children
traveled from Persia to Spain and taught their instrumental, vocal and dance techniques which
strongly influenced the local populace. Along with the spread of Persian musical influence to
the West and East, was the Persian lute formerly known as the barbat, and later called the
'oud or al'oud by the Arabs. This instrument was adopted in Europe where it's name was pronounced
lute, and on the other front, was carried by the Mongols to China where it's name barbat was
pronounced pipa by the Chinese and biwa by the Japanese.
After the Aryan tribes moved into India and greater
Persia, their cultures began to diverge and two different yet related musical systems developed. The
Persian system became the basis for music of Middle Eastern countries and was also influential in
Eastern Europe, Spain, France and Italy. During the Greek period in ancient Persia, the Indo-Persian
system influenced Greek music and thus found it's way into Rome. During the Sassanian era,
instrumentalists were invited to Persia from India and it was the later Perso-Afghan master,
Amir Khosrow who brought Persian musical concepts and the setar to India. It was the music
of the Sassanian period which was the foundation for the systems of much of the Islamic world
today. When the Arabs came to Persia and encountered a superior musical culture, they quickly
absorbed and adopted what they had discovered. Persian musicians propagated their art in Arab
capitals where they were welcomed by people eager for refinement. Arab artists travelled to
Persia to study, and after returning to their home cities began teaching. Even though Islam
resulted in limiting the use of music in public to only special events such as weddings and
family gatherings, music was quietly practiced and taught, thus passing down the ancient
tradition over the ages. Actually Islam helped music to rise to a high metaphysical level
Eschewing commercialism and pop forms in favor of spirituality. In former eras an artist
was often skilled as an instrumentalist, vocalist, poet and composer at the same time.
PERSIAN MODAL SYSTEM OR RADIF
The 12 modes, known as dastgah, comprise
the radif, or total official collection of modes. The dastgah are composed of many melodic
sequences of various lengths which are called gushe. The radif of 12 modes consists of some
500 gushe in 5 main modal scales. The gushe can be from less than a minute to several minutes
long and are either free-rhythm, semi-rhythm or in 3/4, 6/8, or very rarely, 7/8. A free-rhythm
gushe is called avaz, or has many various names which designate certain melodic sequences of
various structures and the rhythmic gushe can be termed chahar-mezrab, which means "four beat".
Another rhythmic type of gushe is called kereshme, which translates loosely as "flirtation" and
is characterized by the rhythmic pattern of: . - . - . . - - (short-long, short-long, short short,
long long). Kereshme starts out with a general rhythmic pattern which may last for a while or
resolve in a rhythm-free continuation.
Each dastgah has three or four main notes and
a reference note. As the mode develops, these main notes are emphasized, progressively climbing
upward in the scale until the whole scale has been developed. Developing a mode is like climbing
a staircase; the steps are the main notes or degrees. The artist works from step to step,
concentrating on the main note of each degree by passages meant to emphasize it until he reaches
the top note of emphasis. From there he quickly retraces his steps to the starting point.
Although the gushe, or melodic sequences, are learned exactly from master to disciple, after
many years of training a student becomes familiar enough with the material to be able to
improvise by interpreting the melodic sequences he has learned. It is similar to the way
that American jazz was originally passed from musician to musician, each artist learning the
solos and patterns of the master and then finally adding their own interpretation during
improvisation. Persian music and other Eastern musical systems have changed very slowly because
the original system was so perfected that there has been little need for improvement by
the masters who have emerged over the years. In Persian music and other Eastern performing arts,
mood is always far more important than technique, even though amazing and intricate technical
skills are associated with the performing arts of the East. But these skills are always
subservient to the emotion of the performer whose role is that of a channel bringing expressions
from a higher realm to the audience.
PERSIAN CLASSICAL INSTRUMENTS
The santur is a trapezoid-shaped hammered dulcimer
with strings passing from one end to the other over small bridges. There are two types of strings,
brass and steel. The steel wires which pass over the bridges at the left are the high notes and
the brass wires which pass over the bridges at the right are the low notes. A group of four strings
tuned together make up the tonal units. The wires are struck by two long, thin, delicate mallets
called mezrab, which in Persian means striker. This instrument is known throughout the Middle East,
India and Afghanistan, but it's influence does not stop there. The santur was taken to China by
Jesuit missionaries and is now found in Indo-China and Korea as well. The instrument is also common
in Eastern Europe and was played in medieval Europe where some say it was the forerunner of the piano
the way the harp was the prototype of the harpsichord.
The tar is a six-stringed, plucked instrument
with a skin-covered soundbox. The six strings are tuned in pairs, the high-pitched and central pairs
in unison and the bottom pair in octave. Adjustable string frets are wound and tied around the neck
providing a scale which includes the 12 Western notes plus several semi-flats or quarter tones. All
the notes are never used in a mode, but seven or eight pitches are chosen from among 17 possibilities.
A small brass plectrum, or mezrab, inserted in a lump of wax is held in the right hand. The fourth
finger of the left hand is also used to pluck the strings for ornaments. Notes may be raised or
ornamented by sliding the strings over the frets with a sort of squeezing motion of the left hand.
The setar is a more recent development of the ancient tambur of Khorasan, which is credited with
being the ancestral form of nearly all lutes now known in the East. The setar is a long-necked
four-stringed instrument which has a soundbox covered with thin wood. It originally had only
three strings, the fourth was added by the great mystic Moshtaq Ali Shah. Adjustable string
frets are wound around the neck as on the tar, and the left hand techniques are like those of
the tar except, instead of a plectrum, the fingernail of the index finger is used. This technique,
as well as many other aspects of the setar, including the shape of the instrument and the
peg arrangement, were adopted in India when the setar was brought to the subcontinent by
master Amir Khosrow, eventually to develop into the Indian sitar.
The kamanche is a bowed violin type instrument
with a round soundbox, either made from steam bent strips of wood, or hollowed from one piece.
The soundbox is covered with skin and produces a very warm tone. The bow strings used to play
the kamanche are attached at one end by a loose leather strip which is held either tightly or
loosely in the right hand, enabling the tension of the bow to be varied while playing.
The origin of the kamanche, which is more recent than the santur and setar, is uncertain.
Some scholars have credited the Kurds, an ancient Iranian people, with the invention
of bowed instruments, while others claim that bowed instruments originated with nomads
from further north, perhaps of the Mongol race. Originally, the kamanche had only three strings,
two silk and one brass, but recently the fourth was added and the strings changed to metal under
the influence of the violin.
The nei, a type of flute, is made from a
long piece of bamboo in which finger holes are drilled. Sound is produced by the player
blowing across the open top of the instrument, a very difficult technique to master.
The zarb or donbak, is a single headed
drum worked and chiseled from a piece of mulberry wood. A wet skin is stretched over the
large end and glued with a string wound several times around the rim to hold the head while
it dries. The instrument is played with the fingers of both hands. The right hand is used
for deep sounds in the center and also high sounds near the rim, while the left hand concentrates
on high sounds and snaps. A roll is produced by throwing the limp fingers of each hand alternately
against the head. Other special techniques are employed to obtain various sounds such as snapping
the third and fourth fingers against the skin near the rim, or depressing the skin to raise the pitch.
Other than the zarb, the dayere or frame drum is also used, but it is more common to folk or
Dr. Daryush Safvat, internationally renown
and respected Persian music master and ethnomusicologist, describes aspects of Persian music
in various books he has written. Concerning freedom in rhythm such as present in the avaz
type gushe, he says that these melodic sequences, "allow the performers to reflect their inner
feelings in the music through the use of free rhythms." He writes that "it is a tool, that
in the hands of a master, enables him to reflect his and the audience's feelings in the music
or to create changes in them." "The performer can manipulate the rhythms of a certain gushe
to make them sad or nostalgic. He can gradually introduce undetectable changes to alter
the moods and turn all that sorrow into a meditative mood or even happiness." Concerning
improvisation, Safvat writes, "Improvisation is one of the most important characteristics of
Iranian music." He clarifies that improvisation is a tool to be used by those who have completely
grasped the tradition. "Improvisation was a technique that enabled the master musician to make
spontaneous changes in the melodies according to his feelings." According to the tradition the
disciple needed to study the complete radif, which usually took some 10 years. When he could
correctly render all the melodic sequences correctly, he was authorized to interpret the dastgah
system and eventually, after a lifetime of perfecting his skills, add some input of his own.
This process of slowly adding and reinterpreting the ancient melodic sequences has, over the
millennia, developed into the radif which exists today.
Other aspects of performance which are important
are mentioned by Safvat and apply to the dance as well as the music. One of these is symmetry
which he explains creates calmness and eliminates excitement which is spiritually harmful.
He says that repetition, "prepares the mind to receive more profound messages. This is why
repetition and symmetry are visible in spiritual artwork." He explains that, "nuance, in it's
European sense, does not exist in authentic Iranian music. We never play one part loud and the
next one soft. In Iranian music, this nuance instead exists in each single note. In other words,
no single note remains the same from beginning to end. The main notes of a melody are usually
played with more stress and soften as they continue. Ornamental notes, on the other hand,
are always played softly. This change of sound should be very subtle, lest it become
unpleasant to the ear." Another aspect of balance is discussed by Safvat, "we might say that
in Iranian music there are very few angles, that most movements are created through curves.
This is particularly important in moving from one rhythm or key to another. This element
should be strictly observed unless we intentionally want to create a sudden change of mood
in our audience." What is termed "loud and silent", in Persian music is a type of question
and answer which can take the form of phrases played alternately in high and low registers.
An important factor in performance is mood,
called hal in Persian. According to Safvat, "Music is a message, and like any other message
it carries two types of information: semantic and esthetic. The esthetic information is what
we call mood. By message, we mean whatever part of the outside world that affects us, that
we can feel through our physical senses. Each message consists of many signs that follow
each other in accordance with certain rules or codes." He explains that, "Semantic information
is the part of any message that is logical, can be understood through common sense and is
translatable into other media. The esthetic part of a message only affects our mood and
feelings; it can make us sad, happy or angry. This, in fact, is the result of a direct
relationship between the sender and the receiver of a message and is not translatable
into any other medium. In the case of music, whatever can be written down on paper is
only the semantic information. The esthetic information in music is the part we cannot
transcribe; it is defined only by the style and mood of the performer."
Safvat asserts that, "In authentic Iranian music,
mood is always superior to technique. In other words, technique is only a tool with which we want
to create moods. To be able to create moods, the performer has to have worked towards his own
perfection. He must be honest with himself. He must see his own shortcomings and constantly
try to correct them. That is why a dishonest artist can never get anywhere." Safvat describes
the four characteristics necessary to be able to relay an honest mood as, "purity, honesty,
humility and love of others." In this regard, Safvat notes that, "people's characters can be
detected through their music", and he describes humility as, "avoiding all pretentions and
worldly ambitions which stem from putting too much importance on the self."
Historical data on Persian dance is rather scarce.
Herodotus was not complimentary in his description of Persian dance because he did not understand it's
purpose. Ancient Persian dance must have shared the same purpose and respect in which dance of ancient
India or China was held. As evidenced in some art works, dancers of the pre-Islamic courts might have
carried wooden clappers. When Islam came to Persia, dancing was relegated to a low social category but
was fostered in the courts of kings and Mogul rulers. Dancers were imported from India and the transfer
and inter-blending of dance concepts among the various cultures encompassed by Islamic culture is obvious
and is possibly the origin of Persian inspired Indian Nautch dancing. Persian traditional dance, as
traditional music, has always been a solo virtuoso art with improvisation consisting of choosing among
known themes learned from the master who passed them on from his master. After Islam, although the
profession of dance was relegated to a caste or class of people not favored by society, those performers
who were hired by nobility or courts had full-time attention placed on their art, availing them of skills
unattainable by the average person who occasionally danced for fun. Persian traditional dance with it's
gliding slow, yet purposeful grace and charm was continued in Caucasia which did not fully succumb to
Thus, although Persian miniature dance, which is a
depiction of Persian miniature paintings, is not purposely intended to be a dance of devotion
to God as are certain dance forms of India, the dancer portrays the qualities of perfection described in
poetry and depicted in paintings which awaken the viewer to a higher
consciousness beyond the material plane. The beloved, in the character of the
idealized woman in Persian poetry and painting, is a non-existent ideal which one is not expected to find
on this earth, but rather represents the beauty of a divine being. This is not to say that a god actually
possesses these exact features, but that this physical representation is something with which mortal man can
associate beauty and perfection. Classical Persian poetry, as opposed to modern poetry, nearly always
contained the theme of yearning for the beloved, for a reunion with the divine and often had a mood of
longing or pining as well as devotion or praise. This aspect can be felt in Persian music and may be
seen in some Persian dance. In the Book of Kings, (in Persian, Shah Nameh), the author Ferdosi, when
speaking of Manizheh, the daughter of Afrasyab and her attendants writes: "all are cypress-statured
and all fragrant with musk. Their cheeks are rosy, their eyes languorous, their lips wine-filled and
redolent of rose-water." Ferdosi, as many other authors, symbolically used these descriptions to
represent the love for a divine source. The great poets described every detail of the beloved as
well as many other references in the poetry, and each of these details symbolizes a spiritual counterpart.
For example, when the poet refers to the cup of wine which is intoxicating, he means the love of the
divine which brings happiness. The system of symbolism is endless, intricate and extremely beautiful
and moving. It is this poetry, designated as song texts to the traditional Persian music, by which
the Persian miniature dancer expresses herself through interpretation
The music which accompanies Persian miniature
dance is the traditional sequences known in Persian as radif, of modes called dastgah. Each dastgah
is assigned a certain color, element, spiritual connotation, and mood. Noted Persian music and
spiritual master Dr. Daryush Safvat, suggests that the mode Shur, is affiliated with fire and the
color red; Segah, is water and blue; Chahargah is gold and heroic; Isfahan is green, and so on.
The colors of miniature costumes used to dance to the various dastgah may be chosen according to
Safvat's code. Both the free-rhythm, implied rhythm and rhythmic sections of the dastgah are
appropriate for miniature dance. The various poses of the angelic women represented in the
miniature paintings are brought to life during the liquid, gentle flow of the dance accompanied
by the santur, setar, tar, nei or other traditional solo instrumental pieces with the addition
of the drum (zarb) for the rhythmic sequences. The graceful hand movements from side to side,
above the head and about the face while the dancer glides across the floor or sways back and forth,
either standing or kneeling, hints at different symbols in the cultural heritage of Persia, but a
system of specific mudras (hand symbols) and asanas (positions), such as exist in India and Indochina
has not yet been codified. Persian miniature dances have been developed from drawing on Persian
miniatures, from dance styles of neighboring areas which have been formed by influence and interchange
with Persian culture and from the traditional poetry used in the vocal music in the various dastgah
as passed down by the late vocal master, Mahmud Karimi. The emotion, color and element of each dastgah
according to Dr. Safvat's system have been utilized in the development of the dance.
Other than miniature solo virtuoso dance, another
degraded form is termed 'party dance'. This style is a more mundane, actually low level, even at times
disgusting with version of some of the miniature dance movements with hands waving from side to side while
shuffling and swaying back and forth to a definite strong drum rhythm, usually 6/8, and a melody instrument or two
played in an energetic frolicy manner rather than the serious classy and esoteric fashion of the dastgah
system. The attire of the Qajar dynasty, 1799-1925 A.D., is sometimes worn for this type of party dance
and would include a short skirt called shaliteh, worn over colorful pants, a colorful vest worn over a
long shirt and a head scarf. Along with this style of dance is what is known as the Baba Keram. This
dance, usually done by men, is performed to slow, humorously oversensuous music almost a 7/8 feeling
in a 6/8 framework. The man wears a tilted hat and does exaggerated gyrations as the viewers clap along
and shout encouragements. Persian party dance is not representative of anything serious and should be
avoided by serious students of traditional Persian dance who would prefer the miniature accompanied by purely old
traditional music of the radif or regional folk dances as done by the actual people of various regions.
Persian folk dance could be divided among the ethnic
minorities of the country. These are: Kurds and Lors in the west with their line dances; Azeri Turks
and Armenians in the north with the acrobatic virile men's dances and the slow graceful women's
movements; the Qashqai Turks of the Shiraz area with their handkerchief group dance; Khorasanis in the
east with their Afghan type circle dances; Baluchis with their tribal dances and Gilanis of the north
Caspian area with their colorful group dances. Regional Iranian folk dances will be described below
along with the appropriate music and costuming for the area.
The Qashqai are a Turkic tribe who live in the
environs of Shiraz, a city famous for roses, situated near the ancient Persian capital of Persepolis.
The Qashqai speak a Turkic dialect and are semi-nomadic living in villages around Shiraz in Fars province.
Categories of Qashqai dance are, raqs-e dastmal, (scarf dance), raqs-e haft dastmal (dance of seven scarves),
Ashrafi, Buir Ahmadi, etc. Women's dances are done either in a circle or in other patterns including free style.
When pivoting, the dancer steps on one foot and pushes off with the ball of the other which gives the skirts the
appearance of bouncing somewhat. The stepping progresses to a small leap-step-step, which can be a travelling step.
The dancers hold small scarves in each hand and wave them in time to the music sometimes leaning from side to side.
The scarves are waved in front of the dancer, at the sides, overhead, or the dancer may choose to rest one hand
on the hip or on her shoulder near the neck while the other hand waves the scarf. The dancer may turn while
alternately waving scarves up and down, overhead, or in front. In some styles the dancer stops with the music,
kneeling or squatting on the floor and shaking the scarves with small vigorous shakes while raising from the
floor, or turning into the kneeling position. Men's movements may also include waving or shaking scarves.
The footwork ranges from simple walking, stepping turns, to leap-cross steps and step kick or lift patterns
while shaking the scarves alternately overhead or side to side.
Qashai tribeswomen wear many skirts at one time,
some are made of a lacy fabric woven with metallic threads. They often have a ruffle on the bottom
of about three inches in width and the skirt is made with as many as 10 yards of fabric gathered at
the waist, this gives the skirts an extremely full appearance. Over the skirts the women wear a
straight long chemise which is split on the sides, and a short jacket of velvet or the same metallic
fabric as the skirt. The chahar qad, or long head-shawl, can be fastened under the chin and is held
in place by a silken head band of cinched fabric tied once in back, both in lively colors such as gold
or maroon. The dancer can wear flat Persian style slippers. The woman's hairstyle often determines
her marital status. One hat style worn by the Qashqai men is a felt design with flaps which can be
pulled down over the ears, but this is rarely done. Another more rare Shirazi cap which represents
old style Persian would not have the flaps, a look common to city people. Long straight loose pajama
style drawstring pants and a shirt worn outside the pants, coming a little below the waist, are also
common. A vest or a long loose-fitting cloak, often in dark brown, and folded in front held closed with
a kamarband, or cummerbund, is worn firmly wrapped and tucked in at the waist. The men's shoes are woven
white cloth with thin leather soles, the back of the shoe is often worn under the heel so the foot slides
in like a backless slipper.
Music for Qashqai dance is played on a shrill oboe
called sorna, and a drum played with sticks. The rhythm is 6/8 and the melodic phrases are repeated
over and over again with stops during which the drum continues a free rhythm roll until the sorna
starts playing again
The Kurds are an Iranian people descendant from
the ancient Medes such as those who inhabited the ancient city of Ekbatana, now Hamadan. Kurds are
now found in western Iran, northeastern Iraq, Syria, eastern Turkey and a few in neighboring USSR.
Their languages are Iranian dialects which in some ways reflect more traditional old Persian phenomena.
Dancing among the Kurds, regardless of where you find them is generally line dance with dancers
linked in a number of hand, finger or shoulder holds. This is the farthest East that we find this
folk dance configuration, with most Eastern dance favoring solos, segregated or unlinked circle dances.
The Kurdish line dances do differ from region to region but mostly include variations on grapevine steps,
hopping, balancing and leg lifting movements. The leader of the line is usually waving a scarf and often
there will be a soloist or two dancing in front of the curved line. The line does not become a closed circle,
only rarely. Men and women sometimes dance together in a line, which is quite unusual for Eastern dance,
but often they would be segregated.
The Kurdish man's shirt is a type of cotton and comes
up high to the neck. The man's jacket is one of two designs; a military-look in a heavy lined fabric with
buttons up the front, sporting buttoned pockets and a straight stand-up collar. The second style jacket
is a lighter weight fabric, closed at the waist with a V opening from the neck to the waist and is collarless.
Billowing pantaloons with pegged bottoms, held up by a drawstring are typical pants worn by the men in this area.
The shirt or jacket is tucked in the pants. The waist band is a very long (18 ft. or more), narrow, usually
shiny fabric and can be any variety of color. The waist band is tied by starting with the center of the band
at the back, bringing each end in front, crossing them over, twisting and bringing them around back, bring them
forward again and cross and twist, repeating until the ends come front and tuck them in, there are usually three
of the cross/twists in the front. This waist band is called kamarband, which became cummerbund in the west.
A crocheted type cap is worn by the men under the specially wrapped turban. The turban fabric itself is a square
of silky material, about 6 ft, usually a narrow stripe of black and either red or silver with black short narrow
tassels tied at the end of the fabric about 1 inch apart. The turban is wrapped so the right end hangs about 12
inches from the face and is wrapped around the head, tucking in the final ends. An important characteristic of
the Kurdish turban is the tassels which hang on the forehead due to the way the fabric is wrapped. Sometimes
a black or red Arab kefiya can be used for the turban or as a short tucked waist sash. The Kurdish men wear
a detached sleeve which is added to the arm between the wrist and just above the elbow worn on top of the
shirt or jacket. This sleeve is a white light weight fabric cut in a long narrow triangle with a small
opening on one end for the hand and completely open on the other long end of the triangle. The man puts
his hand into the triangle and through the small opening and wraps the sleeve around the arm, tucking the
final end in the top near or above the elbow. Footwear consists of a knitted or crocheted shoe with a
thin flat sole, usually white.
Women's clothing includes a pantaloon, an A-line cut
dress of various fabrics, and a floor-length coat, open in the front. The women wear a waist sash and
turban similar to the men but the turban is held down by a headpiece of coins linked in a circle crossing
the top from front to back. The shoes would be similar to the men's but usually more colorful.
Instruments used in Kurdish music are usually sorna,
(shrill oboe), or dozale (double oboe), and a dohol (large two-headed barrel drum) and single headed
frame drum doira, also known as daf. Instruments common to the Kurdish Sufi tradition are the tambur,
which is a two or three string plucked lute, and the daf, or frame drum. The tambur is played free-rhythm
at first then slowly builds up momentum when the daf joins until it reaches a wild frenzy. Melodic patterns
are simple and can be in 4ths or 5ths. Rhythms are normally a strong steady 4/4 and rarely tambur solos
might be in 7/8. Movement that accompanies this music in the Sufi khaneqa is sporadic and chaotic,
characterized by head tossing from side to side and occasionally a semblance of Kurdish line dance.
Kurdish Sufis sometimes wear long white robes with Chinese style collars and white sashes, attire
appropriate for both men and women. These movements, which are discussed further in the Turkish lesson,
should not be misinterpreted as dance nor should they be performed by anyone other than sincere and serious
initiates of a legitimate Sufi order.
Torbat-e Jam is a city on the road between
and Herat and, although located in Iranian Khorasan, it's inhabitants are more Afghani. This men's dance
is similar to the atan and the atan-e kaufi, which also uses the 7/8 meter divided 3 + 4. The similarities
can be seen in the characteristic; step-close-step-type pattern and the quick spins. The Torbati dance
often includes dance with sticks called raqs-e chupi in Persian, and resembling dances done with swords
and typifying military dances of the area. Torbati dance is done to 6/8 and 7/8 meters. Dancers progress
to a spectacular advanced pattern which includes spins and squats with each dancer holding two sticks.
Squatting on the floor and small walking, lightly bouncing squats, circling while hitting the sticks on
the floor are common acrobatic movements. They progress to wild spins on one foot, kicking or lifting
the other foot and hitting both sticks against the partners's, overhead and on the alternate measure,
while turning, hitting their own sticks together about waist level or below in front or slightly to the
side. The one footed spins are all done on the right foot, then the dancers catches himself after the
spin with the left foot and pushes off to spin in the other direction. So, the first spin may be done
clockwise and the second counter clockwise and so on
The men ordinarily wear the billowy white
trousers called tumban, white long knee-length shirts called kemiz which are very full and flare
when spinning. The men also wear vests called vaskot, which can be buttoned in the front and have a
V shaped neckline. The vaskot is usually a plain dark color. The headwear consists of a white turban,
amame, or equivalent to the Afghan lungi. In this case, one end of the turban cloth is drawn under
the chin and around the back of the neck. The turban is worn over a cap called kola, which can be of
gold embroidery. Dark heavy socks are worn with an open backed sandal made with three strips of leather
folded over leaving two small openings near the toes.
Torbati music is played on a two-string dutar, and a
large flat double-headed drum played with the hands. Music for this dance begins in 6/8 and then for
the stick dance switches to the 7/8 beat common to Afghanistan.
Khaf is a village in Persian Khorasan which is near
the border of Afghanistan. Although geographically in N.E. Iran, it is culturally Afghan, as are many
of it's inhabitants. Khaf is known for it's excellent two-string lutes called dutar. Khafi folkdance,
which could be called atan-e khaufi, is basically a men's dance. If done by women would exclude the
acrobatic patterns and execute the spins more gently. The movement of this dance is mostly in and out
of a circle, facing center and spinning away and stepping back in the circle. The dance begins with a
hand clapping sequence and a simple stepping sequence marking the 7/8 rhythm. The patterns build and
develop adding spins, push-ups, squats, hops, drops to one knee, more claps and a combination of spins
and squats. The dance is done to a 7/8 rhythm and the accents are primarily on counts l and 4.
Clothing for the men is similar to Torbati dance costuming.
Music is played on a two-string dutar, and the
large frame drum doira. Music for this dance would be in the 7/8 rhythm cycle common to Afghanistan
which is 3 + 4. Melodic patterns are in two repetitive reoccurring parts in a modal scale which is major
in the lower portion and minor in the upper portion.
Quchan is a village northwest of Mashhad in Khorsan
towards the Caspian Sea inhabited by a Turkic people more similar to Azeri Turks than to the Turkomans
of Turkmenistan, whose border is a few miles to the north. The men's dance is done in a circle and
when the circle moves into a line, each man does a solo similar to Georgian or Azerbaijani men's
solos with some acrobatic spins, squats, several hops on one foot and quick kicks with slightly
bent knee. The meter is 6/8 and several patterns are used with the group and in the solos.
The hand and arm movements are very characteristic of dance from this area and even resemble
Central Asian men's hand movements. The arms are held up almost shoulder level for the most
part, sometimes higher when snapping fingers. This snapping is called peshkan, a style of snapping
with the hands clasped together, snapping one index finger off the other, sometimes holding
the hands up high, at other times down low. The hands are sometimes held gracefully at the
sides near front of the dancer with arms extended at shoulder level. Two very common gestures
are the quick small flicks of the hands, almost like flicking water off the fingertips lightly,
and the position which looks like a prayer position of the hands, palms together with straight fingers.
Each position is very subtle, held for a short time and can be done during transitions in footwork.
The men dancers have been known to wear a red shirt,
buttoned in the front sort of off center, buttoned at the neck near the shoulder, also at the sleeve.
The pants can be black, tighter fitting than the billowy tumban, more like woolen loose fitting pants
and tied at the waist with a hanging sash of white or some other color. The pants would be tucked in
colorful stockings which come up to below the calf and are worn beneath soft soled moccasin type shoes
with straps tied over the stockings. The hat would be a dark color, shaped similar to Turkoman in form
but not as large and would be lambswool, karakul. It would sit back on the head a bit, but would cover
the front hairline and not the ears. This men's clothing closely resembles some Eastern European clothing.
Quchani music can be played on a two-string dutar,
bowed kamanche, with the rhythm supplied by a large flat double-headed drum played with the hands.
Music for this dance is in 6/8 meter.
Bojnord is a village in the northeast section of
Iran on the road between the Caspian and Mashhad, just East of Quchan. Bojnord is inhabited by a
Turkic people similar to those of Quchan. Men and women dance separately or together in Bojnordi dance,
snapping their fingers in the method known as peshkan, with hands held overhead or at various levels
in front of the body. The dance movements include quick running threes, step hops with feet close
together or turning, pivot spins, pas de basque, etc. This style of dance is characterized by the
bounding movements done in time to the 6/8 meter. Dancing in a circle with running and step hop steps,
the dancers may turn alternate directions facing first one side then the next, dancers sometimes facing
one another. Men or women may dance with small colorful scarves, called dastmal, waving them to a slow
3/4 meter. Another hand movement is raising and lowering both hands when stepping forward and back.
A third hand movement resembles that of Quchani dance and looks like a prayer position of the hands
with "pulling" the fingers away from each other and drawing them together again. Men do a dance to
the 6/8 rhythm, in a circle with peshkan, which resembles many other circle dances of Iran.
Men's costuming includes a bright colored collarless
shirt which buttons down the front and on the cuffs, dark straight pants and a narrow waist-sash tied
with ends hanging on the side. Headwear for the men would be a light colored cloth tied similar to
a turban, with fringe on the edges or a felt dome shaped cap which sits high on the head. The footwear
is a soft leather slipper, turned up on the toe with leather straps wrapped up past the ankle and worn
over heavy colored socks. The women's clothing is extremely colorful from head to foot. The headdress
consists of a large silky fringed scarf draped over the head and under the chin, tied on with another
colorful scarf tied in the manner of a small turban which could have fringe hanging from the side.
The blouses are usually printed and colorful and are worn over a very full skirt. The skirt is
a few inches below the knee and has several horizontal multicolored stripes of various sizes near
the hemline. Over the blouse the women wear an open, straight-lined, sleeveless vest which comes
below the waist a few inches
Bojnordi dance music is played on a small
double-reed instrument similar to a bagpipe chanter and a barrel drum played with the hands
Baluchis' are a nomadic Indo-Iranian tribe who live
in southeast Iran, southwest Afghanistan and in Western Pakistan and speak a dialect related to Persian.
Baluchi folk dance is characterized by stepping and turning in and out of a circle. The men often do
squatting steps with feet fairly far apart, then they rise and repeat the turning. The men and women
may dance separately or together, the women's styling more demure. Although Baluchis have a more coarse
character compared to some, their dance features some of the softer styling from Indian influence but in
a less restricted motif. The dancers may plie after step turns, pausing and creating a little bounce.
The women may add graceful leaning and possibly sharp hand gestures causing bracelets to ring.br>
The men may wear long sleeves that hang below the
hand so that turning with hands extended out to sides causes the sleeves to "fly".
Women's costuming shows some Indian influence in tight fitting pants, colorful
ornate straight dresses and long flowing brightly colored veils. The veil and dress is adorned with
jewelry and the hair may be long and straight or braided in a few braids. The dancer would also wear
bracelets which can jingle when she dances. She is sometimes barefooted with jingling ankle bracelets.
The men's costuming is light colored cotton, a light brown for example, billowy pants with long matching
shirts and a vest or short jacket, and a silky striped turban of the Pakistani style with one end starched
to fan out, tucked in so that it stands up in front. The turban is worn over a tall, rounded cap which may
have gold embroidery. Men dance barefoot or in simple sandals.
Instruments for Baluchi music consist of
sorud, also known as sarang or gaichak outside of Baluchistan, it is a skin-covered bowed instrument with a
mysterious echo. Another instrument used is the rebab, which is a plucked instrument with a long, deep,
skin-covered soundbox and finally the tanbire, which is a large, long, three-stringed lute similar to an
Afghan tambur used as a drone instrument. The rhythm instruments can be the dohol, (large barrel drum),
the tabla, or frame drum, doira.
Gilan is a province in northern Iran which borders the
Caspian Sea, inhabited by an Iranian people who speak a dialect of Persian known as Gilaki. The plush,
verdant splendor of Gilan is a soothing contrast to the desert areas of the country. Gilan is known for
two dances, one is called Ghasemabadi and the other is Deilamani, referring to the area. The dance by
the women sometimes imitates the rice harvest for which the area is known. Women's dance done to a
6/8 meter is slow yet bouncy, often holding small colorful handkerchiefs (dastmal) in each hand and
lightly shaking them while tumbling hands over one another. Hands are sometimes on the hips, when
turning for example, or shaking the scarves from side to side, up and down. Women's footwork is mostly
simple small steps which causes the up and down bouncing of the skirt hems. There is also a movement
bending forward and shaking the scarves from side to side near the ground, gradually descending to the
ground while shaking the scarves. Women also spin with skirts flaring and suddenly sit on the ground
doing sweeping motions with the scarves. Movements done sitting include describing a circle on
the ground with the scarves, or circling scarves overhead either both at the same time or alternating.
While sitting, the women also lean forward and do sweeping movements overhead alternating one scarf
and then the other.
Clothing for women include a shawl-like headpiece
draped over the head and wrapped around the front of the neck. This can be worn over a mall cap or
pinned in the hair. The fabric for the shawl is a fine lace or a closely woven cotton and may have
fringed and tasseled edges. The costume can include a chemise dress of woven metallic fabric or
a long blouse, over a full-length flared skirt with many stripes around the hemline. These stripes
may be ribbons or rick-rack sewn to the skirt. A jacket of velvet or other fabric is worn over the
blouse or dress ornamented with rick-rack or some other trim on the sleeves and borders of the jacket.
A wide dark scarf is sometimes worn on the waist. Music for Gilani dance can be shrill oboe, sorna,
and barrel drum, dohol.
Gilani dance, for some illogical reason, often tends
to lend itself to the possibility of hip movements which are not at all in character with any authentic
Eastern dance. This degrading practice should be completely avoided as well as cheapening the dance
with other cutesy and sexy-oriented antics. This problem is the reason we will not even discuss Bandari
dance which is a representation of the Arab peoples living in the south of Iran because their dance is
perceived by many Iranians to be quite cheap and low class, not representative of the highly developed
metaphysical Persian culture. It is a dance form that really should be avoided.