Persian dance

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Dancing is historically entwined with many cultures around the world. Here, 17th century Persian women dance in a ceremony in Iran.

Persian dance refers to the dance styles indigenous to Iran. What it is called and the style is different depending on the area, culture, and language of the local people. For example, the Kord or Kurd call dance Halperke, and the Lor of Lorestan or Luristan call dance Bākhten or Bāzee.

The style of dance found in most cities and among the diaspora is called 'raghs' or 'gher dadan' in Persian. It is almost entirely performed to 6/8 time signatures (called "shish o hasht") and is the only dance that is performed by all Iranian peoples regardless of ethnicity. The dance itself is highly individualistic and relies on solo improvisation performances much like all other Iranian art forms such as music, etc.

Typically in raghs, upper body motion is emphasized, along with hand motions, hip undulations and facial expressions being points of attention. Although often compared to Arabic dance, raghs is very distinct, due to its signature hand movements, and slow circular hip movements as opposed to the rapid hip movements used in belly dancing.

Gher dadan is faster paced. The upper body and lower body are both emphasized. Hip and chest movements are either circular or in an '8' shape. Movements can have a focused point of either the thighs, pelvis, hips, waist, back, shoulders, or chest. In Isfahan a popular dance among local men involves moving the pelvis in pop and lock fashion.

As the Muslim rulers at the Mughal courts invited many Persian dancers during their rule of the Indian subcontinent, some elements of Persian dance were absorbed into Kathak, a North-Indian classical dance style.

Often, raghs will be performed at relatively informal gatherings, such as family meetings, where guests will sit in a circle and a couple will dance in the middle, sometimes accompanied by a donbak or other drum. Raghs is also used more formally at various social events like weddings.

Dancing is also part of various mystic religions, including Sufism. Dancing mystics (regardless of their religious identification) are called Dervish. Dervishes can be either men or women, and Dervish dancing resembles Zar possession rituals from the south of Iran (joonoob), Egypt, and the Horn of Africa.

Persian dance appears in American pop culture in the 2004 film Alexander performed by the eunuch Bagoas at the ceremony where Clietus dies.

Belly dance is called Raghse Sharqi.

Among most notable ensembles of regional Iranian folk dance is Afsaneh Ballet. Other notable dancers include Jamilah, Azar Shiva, Foroozan, Farzaneh Kaboli, Mohammad Khordadian, Helia Bandeh, Masa, and Shahrzad.

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