DanceWatch Weekly: Farewells and welcomes

So long to Eowyn Emerald, hello to Arcos, welcome back to Ten Tiny Dances and a Tanin reprise.

In this week’s DanceWatch I am recycling an interview I did last year with Tanin, an Iranian dance artist. At the time I was reflecting on what freedom meant, were any of us really “free” at all, and what it was like to work as an artist in a politically restrictive country. Tanin is not the artist’s real name—for security reasons.

Tanin, who is now 24, is a freelance dancer, choreographer, and filmmaker. We met several years ago when she submitted her first film to the dance and film festival that I started in New Jersey called The Outlet Dance Project. Her film and the conditions of her life and her perseverance and dedication to dance moved and inspired me, and I wanted to share her story. That conversation which we had via email, unfolds below after this week’s dance performance listings.

Performances this week

ARCOS dance-studio showing 7:30 pm July 5. Photo courtesy of ARCOS dance.

ARCOS dance-studio showing
Directed by Curtis Uhlemann, Erica Gionfriddo, and Eliot Gray Fisher
7:30 pm July 5
Real Ranch Residency, 4511 NE Prescott St.
Visiting from Austin, Texas, transmedia (storytelling across multiple platforms using digital technology) performance group ARCOS dance will perform a work in progress, and share videos of previous work and beer. ARCOS “experiments rigorously to discover adventurous new forms of contemporary performance.”

A Portland farewell to Eowyn Emerald. Photo: David Krebs

Éowyn Emerald & Dancers-xo PDX
7:30 pm July 6
Lincoln Hall
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave.
Portland contemporary dance company Éowyn Emerald & Dancers are relocating to Aberdeen, Scotland, and will perform one last time in Portland before they go. The performance will include a new interpretation of Debussy and an expanded suite of five dances to Duke Ellington’s adaptations of Tchaikovsky and Grieg. It will also include Hidden, a remounted work from 2002 that earned an Regional Dance America Monticello award and a National YoungArts Foundation award. Hidden will be performed by Emerald’s teen dance students.

Emerald has been a major contributor to Portland’s dance scene for many years through teaching, performing, choreographing and through the production of Pacific Dance Makers, a showcase highlighting choreography from across the Pacific region.

Éowyn Emerald & Dancers have performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, On The Boards, Risk/Reward, and at the J.A.W. festival at Portland Center Stage.

Crow by push/FOLD dance company, directed by Samuel Hobbs will be performed at Ten Tiny Dances, 10 am July 8 at Beaverton City Park. Photo by Samuel Hobbs.

Ten Tiny Dances
Directed by Mike Barber
July 8
9:20 am Northwest Dragon and Lion Dance Association parade through the City Park and the Beaverton Farmers Market
10 am Ten Tiny dance performances begin at City Park
11:30 am Ten Tiny Dances Talk Back
Beaverton City Park (across from the Beaverton City Library), 12500 SW 4th St.
Ten Tiny Dances, created in 2002 by Portland dance artist Mike Barber, showcases contemporary performance of all kinds on a 4 x 4-foot stage challenging the choreographers and audiences alike.

This years choreographers include: ADAPT, Def Con 5, Huitzilopochtli, Mike Barber and Cydney Wilkes, Nartana School of Kuchipudi Dance, Painted Sky Northstar Dance Company, The Patrollers, push/FOLD, Victoria Rose White, and The Zealous Advocates.

Below is my conversation via email with Tanin.

What are the restrictions on dance in Iran? How do they affect you or not affect you?

Well, dance has a weird situation in Iran. As you might know, Islamic laws are not friendly toward dance; it is considered a sin and especially women are forbidden to dance. As a result, no dance school is here. On the other hand, although it is restricted officially, there are many dance classes held in Iran! Especially in big cities like Tehran, you can find ballet classes in every neighborhood. The classes mostly are held at gyms.

I as a ballet instructor receive many calls each week from mothers who want their little girls to learn ballet and also young girls who had not the opportunity to learn ballet in their childhood, so they are going to learn it in their adulthood. I want to say that people do have this passion for learning ballet and dance and want to pursue it. And I can confidently say that it even has become a trend here! Why do almost all mothers want their kids participate in ballet classes? There are also some ballet classes held in private kindergartens and many kids attend ballet classes in Iran. But all these events are underground and you can never be sure what will happen to you later.

What was dance in Iran like when your mom was growing up?

After the Islamic revolution of Iran in 1979, the National Ballet of Iran was closed and dancers were banned from working and many fled from Iran. It seemed that everything has disappeared. In this very weird situation, my mother started teaching dance at private homes with small groups of children or adults.

Is there a professional modern or ballet dance scene where you live?

Actually, there are many underground dance performances held in Iran, in some private saloons or small theaters, but they are not officially allowed. I should say it with regret that dance performances here are not very professional as there are a very few well-educated dance teachers and choreographers in Iran—very few. The outcome of performances is not very interesting as a result.

Still from Tanin’s film Immensity. The photographers name has been withheld to protect his identity. Photo courtesy of Tanin.

What is your artistic practice or how do you do your art? How did it develop, what is your dance background?

My mother had the chance to be educated under an instructor who used to dance and teach before Iran’s revolution. She had a passion for dance and I took after her. She used to teach dance for many years and I actually started dancing from the very early age of four. After that, I took some classes here under some other teachers and then looked everywhere to learn more about the dance world. I went to Armenia and also took some classical ballet and contemporary dance lessons there, which was very helpful for my future career. I have been teaching ballet for more than 7 years, and the last 3 years has been in my own private cozy ballet studio.

I can say that I found my own artistic approach to dance in 2014, when I attended a Coursera class online in Creating Site-specific Dance and Performance by Stephan Koplowits from CalArts University. It was a very good opportunity for me to know many dance artists and learn more about dance issues internationally. As a result, I directed a couple of dance films. One called Immensity, which was filmed in a lakeside, and Beyond the Frames, shot in an abandoned building in north of Iran. These two have been screened in more than 15 dance film and film festivals in the USA, Canada and Europe. The latter one also won an award of Best Experimental Short Film from Mallorca International Film Festival in Spain.

Both my films are considered conceptual films. I always wanted to express feelings and concepts using dance, and now I actually use two very powerful things to share my ideas and perceptions about life: dance and film. Although I live in Iran, I can now share my ideas internationally.

I want to take the opportunity here and thank someone who may not know it, but I owe a lot to her. She is Mrs Donia Salem Harhoor, one of the directors of The Outlet Dance Project festival in New Jersey. I met her in the Coursera class, and after some time she messaged me on Facebook and said they have a dance film festival and would be happy if they receive a film from Iran, too. Just because she contacted me, I decided to give it a try. I had never thought of filmmaking before, so I can say that she somehow changed my life! Thank you dear Donia!

Are you in contact with dance outside of Iran and how are you connecting with that? Live or Internet?

Well, I never wanted to live in an isolated planet for myself. I have tried to learn more about dance and issues debated on it and have connection with international artists. In 2016 I attended the Cinedans dance film festival held in Amsterdam personally, where my film was also screened. It was a very good opportunity to meet great artists and exchange ideas with them. I should thank the internet too! It has always been my best friend in my career providing me many information, books, videos, dance friends!

Still from Tanin’s film Beyond the Frames. The photographers name has been withheld to protect his identity. Photo courtesy of Tanin.

What is it like being a dancer in Iran?

It is like dancing while you are constrained! I am not complaining as I have also been very fortunate and successful in my career anyway and I could find my own way, but every time I wanted to do something, I had to fight for things that were very unusual. I had to accept a very high risk for me and my crew when choosing a location for my dance films since it was not acceptable at all if we were caught by the police! You always carry this fear with yourself here. Also there is usually no professional performance held, so you cannot actually be a dancer. Who is a dancer? Someone who dances for herself, or someone who performs on stage?

Anyways, I have been very fortunate so far. I have many students here and we have built up a very friendly and lovely dance community for ourselves. My students are my best friends now. They enjoy the spirit of our class, and it is always so much fun for all of us. I enjoy being so useful here as there is not many educated instructors here. When people call me, they express as if they have discovered someone! I could never feel as proud and happy as I am now, in any other places. I now feel that I am serving the women of my country and bring smile and happiness to them. What else would I like to have in this world more than this? I am now working on my third film which is a dedication to the dance situation in Iran, my students and those who are working in this field in Iran.

Are you thinking of studying dance abroad in a college setting?

Well I actually have received admission to several MA programs in Contemporary Dance Performance from a few Universities in Europe, and I am doing the preparatory work right now to attend one of them.

Update: Tanin has just finished her first year at a European university, and one of her films won “Best Short Film Prize” at an Italian film festival.

Upcoming Performances

July 14-15, Rantum Skoot, Linda Austin, Gregg Bielemeier, Bob Eisen (NYC), and Sada Naegelin & Leah Wilmoth
July 14-16, Apparatus, by Danielle Ross
July 15, Rush Hour, Heidi Duckler Dance Theater Northwest
July 15, Pretty Creatives Showing, NW Dance Project
July 26, Movement and Flow: Portland Dance Films, Hosted by NW Film Center featuring films by Conrad Kazcor, Fuchsia Lin, Dylan Wilbur Media, Gabriel Shalom, Jackie Davis, and Amy Yang Chiao
July 29, Hafla, Portland Bellydance Guild
August
August 3-5, Galaxy Dance Festival, Hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre
August 11-13, JamBallah Northwest ’17, Hosted by JamBallah NW
August 24-September 6, Portland Dance Film Fest, Directed by Kailee McMurran, Tia Palomino, and Jess Evans
August 24-October 8, Kurios: Cabinet Of Curiosities, Cirque Du Soleil

Comments are closed.