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WE CAN DANCE. Entrevistas


(Shiraz, Iran) Actualmente vive en Bruselas.

Lugar de la entrevista: Centro Danza Canal, Madrid.

Recorded and transcribed.

Have you ever been prohibited to dance in any situation?

I remember for example when I was seven years old, and it was a wedding party, in Iran is forbidden to dance. So I remember going to this wedding party and it was underground. There was a lot of sound, it was very loud and, they called secret police, so they came, now they are not secret anymore but at that time it was secret. Normally they are doing like that, they come dressed like normal people. So they got inside and I remember all the women going to the toilet, to the bathroom, to these places to hide. So in these kind of situations there are two options: one they ask money, secretly, so it depends on the social class of the host so if they get the money they leave, but if they don’t then they know that people are hiding. For the wedding party they normally ask money so I remember I was so confuse because it was the first time. Because I am coming from non muslim family, so for non muslim family they don’t do these things. I don’t remember if the money was visually exchanged and then they left, and the party was over of course.

But when I was teenager I was a lot under that situation, underground parties, at some moment I stopped because I was not enjoying doing that, but i remember lot of friends they enjoyed that, like doing something secret. There are a lot of basements, this kind of basements like disco. I had a friend, he had one big sound system, and then the lights and the stage, the basement was the best because they couldn’t find out.

How was the story that you told me the other day about your parents that they had to stop dancing?

My parents started this arts school, it had this idea of learning several arts. So you had to start when you were 16 till your 20, and after your 20s the idea was to go to one of the abroad countries and at that moment was Italy and France, so you could choose to go there and then there was a kind of speciality. They did dance. This school was very professional. The people that were there they were like the best, basically you had to be good in a little bit of everything, drawing, dancing, music… My parents went there and they met each other there, but they were really good in dance and music. Specially my mother. She was one of the best dancers, so you could also choose which kind of dance, both they were doing a kind of folk dance, that you dance in a group. And then they had a professor and she wanted her to be in ballet, but she was 16, it was a bit late for her to become a ballet dancer but they came to this solution to mix these two dances together and she was part of that, more than my father. But then after revolution of course all these things were forbidden, but my mother she built up a kind of studio, something like this, but four walls mirrors, and then she started to teach in our basement. It was like an underground thing. She started to teach just for women. And at that time all the borders were closed so there was not exchange, not even between cities, because the dance my mother was really good at was from the north of Iran. But she found out a group of women, like nomad, turkish women, so they have a special dance, this kind of gipsy dance, you know? With a lot of colors… So then they started to mix it and do a kind of choreography.

Where were they doing this dance, this choreography?

Just at my mother’s house. At that moment it was there but now they are doing a lot of exchange, even in a theater, you can rent a theater and organize a show just for women.

And under which circumstances is it allowed to dance?

You can just dance in Iran where there is only women, you can’t mix, and then you have to keep it secret, it’s an activity just for women to do in secret. But now some of the dances like aerobic, that ok it’s not really a dance but this you can do it.

But this prohibition to dance is just for women, men can do whatever they want?

No, not really. There is a dance, a Kurdish dance that men and women dance together, they are with a lot of clothes, like gypsy and then they are not touching each other, it’s a kind of harmonic movement, you don’t see the body in the sense of the body you just see the whole, and then they are like circulating. It is allowed to do that in Iran like in a festival, like folk dance.

What about this movement that is happening now that women dance in the streets?

Recently after Rohani, the last president, there was lots of movements that women threw out the scarf but these dance… it’s funny because they found this teenager that she records dances and she puts them on instagram, and when you look to the dance you think it’s very professional, you think she went to the highest level of art school. So she posts these videos on the instagram to get followers, but she was not any conscious in the sense of ‘oh I’m doing a movement’. It was not that, but the reaction was an activist reaction because the police picked her and then the other instagram users posted it and all iranian started dancing on the street, film it and then put it on the instagram, and then they put these ironical sentences, because in the country now there are a lot of political problems, like ‘now all the problems are solved’. But I guess it wasn’t a movement, I guess, I don’t know, that girls started to put the videos on instagram to do something, but the policed picked them and it became a movement then. One of the girls I read on the news that she went to Canada, and she have lawyers following the process but I guess she can’t come back. But many people have done things, there is this great actress and dancer, she also initiated another movement before, but nobody could support her.

So you could say that there are some dances that are forbidden and some others not?

Yeah, for example this ruhani traditional dance, this one is not forbidden or the kurdish dance.

I guess that the only dance that involves women in Iran and it’s not forbidden is this kind of dance that they do in the south of Iran when someone is dead. It’s very rhythmic. Even they are filming it, they put it on the media… But there is nothing involved with happiness or the body in the sense of sexual.

So we could say that you can only dance in private spaces?


And what you cannot make public would be like to express yourself through the body?

Yes, all kind of dance is forbidden. There is even no place to do that. Well, you can dance in the park and then go to jail.

But everything from the west is forbidden in Iran, specially dance. And this people in Instagram they have problems because they dance Beyonce, Shakira, with their music and that is forbidden. I guess in Islam is forbidden because as a woman you can’t express your body in public, you can’t show your body, there is a dress code that you wear not to see the shape of the body.

What is your favorite song to dance, That makes you feel good?

I don’t know, I don’t have. I like latino’s music. When I really want to dance I can dance with Latino. I guess it’s a kind of music that really moves you.

In Brussels, did you have any issue or any problem at any place? (to dance)

No, I don’t think so.

The problem there is that they don’t have good music. It’s very difficult to find a place with good DJ ( laughs). No, I never had problems.

When I was a kid, when I was in Iran I was always angry at my mother to do these things, to do the dance lessons.


Because it was very stressful and socially I was very limited. We were not allowed to bring just a friend. Because if the police would find out we would have lots of problems, so it was really something secret. So I had always these feeling that we are living in secret, I am always hiding something. And then I decided not to go there, to dance. But then after, I was actually happy that she did this.

And is she still doing it?

Yes, but she is not dancing like before, she is more teaching, in the sense of choreography. I mean, It was a pity that she was in Iran. In dance for her the expression of the face is very important, she is working on it, on how to use not just your body but also your face, to express your emotions during dancing. It’s very interesting the research that she did and still doing. And also on how to move your body to be natural. She had also this idea that each movement you do could be dance, she is always teaching to people the way of walking or moving in the space, not just being with the music. Most of her classes are without music.

Because in Iran before revolution, the women, they organized one of the biggest hall, like a theater place for ballet, like ballet school, conservatory or something like that and she invited people from west. I don’t know the names but very famous people, to come to Iran. First to see the building because the building was big, based on ballet, very professionally made and then she asked people to teach. And after revolution the building, the building is very beautiful, and it was closed for many years, and now is again open but just for theater. But the people that built up this building they could convince Germany I guess and make a community for ballet, and then people like my mother or other people that stayed in Iran, they didn’t left, now they have more possibilities to exchange, because a lot of people they left Iran. So that is totally different, the ones that left they lost it because they had another kind of problems and they couldn’t continue dancing, some of them they are dancing but maybe between 10, 1 is really good, because some of them they lost the technique. But then the ones that stayed in Iran they struggled with the situation. So I guess I always have a lot of respect for my mother, her technique, because she continued and worked on it, and her process was in a closed border situation, so it was for local women and it was very difficult, also to be creative because there wasn’t any exchange. But now this school in Germany or these things on the internet they give possibility for exchange, because these girls that they know how to dance so perfectly… you should really watch them, they dance so good and they are 18, you think they are dancing since they were 3 but it is all just because of internet. When I was teenager I had also a friend and I remember she was putting… do you know this song of Kylie Minogue? So one of her clips she put it and then she started to dance like her, after one month it was exactly like her. Each time when we were visiting each other I was always watching her dancing, but really western dance. She was like ‘oh find this song and I want to dance like this’ and she is very talented and she has a very beautiful body, but she is still in Iran and she is not a dancer.

Maedeh Hojabri's detention is the latest arrest of a woman violating Iran's strict social codes.
Maedeh Hojabri


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