Iranian National Ballet Company

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Iranian National Ballet Company
سازمان باله ملی ایران
General information
Name Iranian National Ballet Company
سازمان باله ملی ایران
Year founded 1956
Founders Nejad Ahmadzadeh
Founding choreographers William Dollar
Principal venue Roudaki Hall Opera
Assistant Director Haideh Ahmadzadeh
Artistic staff
Artistic Director
  • Nejad Ahmadzadeh
  • Ali Pourfarrokh
Resident Choreographers
Sister company National and Folk Music, Song and Dance Ensemble
Orchestra Tehran Symphony Orchestra
Official school National Ballet Academy of Iran
  • Principal Dancer
  • First Soloist
  • Second Soloist
  • Corps de Ballet
  • Apprentice

The Iranian National Ballet Company (Persian: سازمان باله ملی ایران‎‎) was Iran’s only state ballet institution until the Islamic revolution of 1979 and also the most known and recognized of all dance companies in the Middle East. It was founded in 1958 by the Iranian Ministry of Culture and existed during 21 years (1958-1979). The company, residing at Tehran’s Roudaki Hall Opera, was disbanded in the aftermath of the Islamic revolution and was re-established 23 years later in exile by Nima Kiann under the name of Les Ballets Persans (Persian: سازمان باله ایران‎‎) in Sweden.[1][2]


Introduction of ballet in Iran[edit]

Madame Yelena's ballet class in Tehran. 1949

The history of ballet in Iran started in 1928 when Madame Cornelli, a Russian immigrant who fled the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, started giving ballet lessons in Tehran. She was followed by Madame Yelena (Avedisian),[3] and Sarkis Djanbazian who respectively in 1933 and 1938 organized dance classes in the city of Tabriz and Qazvin. These newcomers expanded the European influenced dance scene in Iran by holding performances and dance classes of various style, including classical ballet, European folk dancing, the European partner dancing, etc.

Iran’s pioneering ballet company[edit]

In the early 1940s Nilla Cram Cook, who had vast knowledge in Eastern cultures and languages, was serving as the United States cultural attaché at the American Embassy in Tehran. During her time as the US culturаl attaché she became employed at the Ministry of Education and Propaganda, as director general of the Arts Department. Her endeavors and great interest in Persian culture, arts and literature resulted in the realization of the most extensive Iranian national dance project of the first half of the twentieth century. In 1946, Cram Cook founded the Studio of the Revival of the Iranian Ancient Arts (in Persian: استودیوی احیای هنرهای باستانی ایران‎‎), aiming to revive and restore the “forgotten” ancient Iranian performing arts. The company was active until around 1953 and toured nationally and internationally.

The Times newspaper review of the newly built Roudaki Hall Opera. 7 February 1968

Establishment of the national ballet company[edit]

In 1955, Mehrdad Pahlbod, the head of the Fine Arts department commissioned Nejad and Haideh Ahmadzadeh to start a ballet school on a professional basis aiming to raise native Iranian ballet dancers for a future national ballet company. The School was opened in 1956 in the premises of Tehran’s Conservatory of Music. Two years later in 1958, the Iranian National Ballet Company was established with Nejad Ahmadzadeh as its founding director. When the Fine Arts Department of Iran eventually expanded and became The Ministry of Culture and Arts, Nejad Ahmadzadeh was appointed as director of the ballet academy, the ballet company and the National and Folk Music, Song and Dance Ensemble which was a sister company to the Iranian National Ballet Company using the same dancers to create and stage a nationally inspired repertoire.[4]

Robert de Warren and Haideh Ahmadzadeh conversating with the Shah and Empress Farah at the Roudaki Hall Opera. 1967
Dame Ninette de Valois (far right) on one of her visits to Tehran at a cocktail party with Nejad Ahmadzadeh, Sandra Vane (centre) and Haideh Ahmadzadeh. 1962

As institutionalizing ballet and bringing about a professional national ballet ensemble comparable to the ballet companies in the West had become a serious concern for the government, the Iranian monarch Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi had personally asked Dame Ninette de Valois to council on the formation of a ballet company during one of his official visits to London and after a command performance in his honor at the Royal Opera House. In the summer of 1958, Dame Ninette de Valois was visiting Turkey where she had founded a ballet school. On the invitation of the Ministry of Culture and Arts, she prolonged her trip in order to visit the National Ballet Academy of Iran and budding company in Tehran. On her return to London, she sent Ann Cox followed by Miro Michael Zolan and his wife Sandra Vane. Later Nicholas Beriozoff, Marion English-Delanian, Richard Brown and finally Robert and Jacqueline de Warren were sent by de Valois to teach and stage dances and short ballets for the ballet academy and company.

The Iranian National Ballet Company developed to become the most renowned Iranian cultural institution during its tenure as the country’s only ballet institution. Company productions were often performed at official events and functions in the presence of the Royal family and invited national and international dignitaries.[5] The company moved to the Roudaki Hall Opera upon its completion in 1967.[6]


Iranian National Ballet Company performing Carmina Burana. 1978

The company repertoire included classical, neoclassical and contemporary ballets which were staged usually by invited guest choreographers and ballet masters from Europe and the United States. The company established a close collaboration with dance institutions in Soviet Union, United States and Europe. The Royal Ballet, Royal Academy of Dance, Bolshoi Ballet, American Ballet Theatre were parts of a vast exchanging cultural program between the companies.

Some early works of the company were those choreographed by Nilla Cram Cook for the Revival of the Iranian Ancient Arts Ensemble which were restaged by Cram Cook’s former dancers, Nejad and Haideh Ahmadzadeh.[5] Prominent and world famous ballet dancers from renowned ballet companies of the world were often invited to dance the principal roles of all great classical ballets. In order to keep the high standard of the productions the company relied on guest artists from abroad to perform the leading roles in most work premieres.[6]

List of Iranian National Ballet Company productions[edit]

Year / Season Work Choreographer Composer Staged by Principal dancers
1958 The Caravan Nilla Cram Cook Haideh Ahmadzadeh
1961 The Classical Première Gluck Miro Zolan
1+2=4 Ravel Miro Zolan Marina ? & Avak Abrahamian Salmasi
Don Quixote Minkus Miro Zolan Haideh Ahmadzadeh & Miro Zolan
Rossiniada Rossini Miro Zolan
Fiesta Kabalevsky Miro Zolan
1962 Libestraum Miro Zolan
The Entertainers Miro Zolan
1963 The Nutcracker Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov Tchaikovsky Miro Zolan Haideh Ahmadzadeh & Leon Neshanian
Comedie a la Francaise Ibert Richard Brown
Slaughter on Tenth Avenue George Balanchine Rogers Richard Brown Clara Avanessian
1965 La Péri Ivan Clustine Paul Dukas Robert de Warren Haideh Ahmadzadeh & Leon Neshanian
Love and the Clown John Cranko Verdi Robert de Warren Lucette Aldous & Robert Bestonso [a]
1966 Games Robert de Warren Ahmad Pejman
La Valse Robert de Warren Ravel
Symphony in C Bizet Robert de Warren
Tchaikovsky Suite Tchaikovsky Robert de Warren
1967 The Lady of the Camellias Robert de Warren
The Firebird Fokine Stravinsky Robert de Warren
1968 Phaedra Auric Robert de Warren Haideh Ahmadzadeh & Robert de Warren
Romeo and Juliet John Cranko Prokofiev Robert de Warren Sarvar Kaboli & Amin Taati
1969 Cinderella Prokofiev Robert de Warren Sarvar Kaboli & Amin Taati
Giselle (Pas de deux) Jean Coralli Friedrich Burgmüller Haydeh Changizian & Riccardo Duse
Unfinished Symphony (Pas de quatre) Madjid Kashef Franz Schubert Madjid Kashef Haydeh Changizian & Riccardo Duse
1970 The Sleeping Beauty Marius Petipa Tchaikovsky Haydeh Changizian & Riccardo Duse
1970-1971 Giselle Jean Coralli & Jules Perrot Adolphe Adam Anne Heaton Adele Oroz & Viktor Rohna [b]
1971 The Nutcracker Marius Petipa & Lev Ivanov Tchaikovsky Jack Carter Carol Grant & Jamshid Saghabashi
Sleeping Beauty Loucette Aldous & Robert Bestonso
The Myth of Creation [c] Robert Thomas Melik Aslanian Robert Thomas
1971-1972 Swan Lake Marius Petipa & Lev Ivanov Tchaikovsky Vakhtang Chabukiani Irina Prokofyeva & Andrei Kondratoff [d]
The Nutcracker Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov Tchaikovsky Jack Carter Haydeh Changizian & Amin Taati
1972 Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen Robert Thomas[disambiguation needed] Gustav Mahler Robert Thomas[disambiguation needed] Haydeh Changizian & Amin Taati /Marion Delanian & Robert Thomas
1972-1973 La Bayadère Marius Petipa Ludwig Minkus Natalie Conus[e] Malika Sabirova & Mozaffar Burkhanov[f] /Haydeh Changizian & Amin Taati
Coppélia Arthur Saint-Léon Léo Delibes Anne Heaton Philippa Caire/Haydeh Changizian & Amin Taati & Djamshid Saghabashi
1973-1974 Fountain of Bakhchisarai Rostislav Zakharov Boris Asafyev Natalie Conus Raisa Strouchkova & Nikolai Fadeyechev [g] & Haydeh Changizian & Avak Abrahamian
La Fille Mal Gardée Dimitri Romanoff Peter Ludwig Hertel Dimitri Romanoff Haydeh Changizian & Amin Taati
Bolero Maurice Ravel Madame Tilda - Roumania
Petrushka Michel Fokine Igor Stravinsky Madame Tilda - Roumania Djamshid Saghabashi
1974 Don Quixote Marius Petipa Léon Minkus Anne Heaton Haydeh Changizian & Djamshid Saghabashi
1975-1976 Schéhérazade Michel Fokine Rimsky Korsakov Anne Heaton Haydeh Changizian & Djamshid Saghabashi/ Avak Abrahamian (1974)
Les Sylphides Michel Fokine Frédéric Chopin Anne Heaton
Sinfonietta Miro Zolan Leoš Janáček Miro Zolan Haydeh Changizian
Jigsaw Miro Zolan Boris Blacher Miro Zolan Haydeh Changizian
The Scarecrow Miro Zolan Benjamin Britten Miro Zolan Avak Abrahamian
The Witch Boy Jack Carter Leonard Salzedo Jack Carter Haydeh Changizian & Djamshid Saghabashi
Bijan and Manijeh[h] Haideh Ahmadzadeh & Robert Urazgildiev Hossein Dehlavi Haydeh Changizian & Djamshid Saghabashi
1976-1977 Serenade George Balanchine Tchaikovsky Patricia Neary Michael Dane & Janet Popeleski
Carmina Burana John Butler Carl Orff Ali Pourfarrokh
Miss Julie Birgit Cullberg Rangström Birgit Cullberg
Giselle Jean Coralli & Jules Perrot & Marius Petipa Adolphe Adam Ali Pourfarrokh Haydeh Changizian & John Prince/ Djamshid Saghabashi
Swan Lake Marius Petipa & Lev Ivanov Tchaikovsky Nicholas Beriozoff Djamshid Saghabashi / Maggie (Burton) Saghabashi & Janet Popeleski
1977-1978 Coppélia Arthur Saint-Léon Léo Delibes Anne Heaton Djamshid Saghabashi
Romeo and Juliet John Cranko Prokofiev Ali Pourfarrokh
Sleeping Beauty Marius Petipa & Lev Ivanov Ali Pourfarrokh
  1. ^ from Royal Ballet
  2. ^ from Budapest Opera Ballet followed by Irina Prokofyeva & Andrei Kondratoff from Bolshoi Ballet
  3. ^ on the occasion of the 2,500 year celebration of the Persian Empire
  4. ^ followed by Mette Höningen & Pale Jacobson from Royal Danish Ballet
  5. ^ from Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, even known as Natalia Konus
  6. ^ soloists of Bolshoi Ballet from Tajik origin
  7. ^ from Bolshoi Ballet
  8. ^ The company’s first full-length classical ballet production based on Shahnameh of Ferdowsi

Artistic staff[edit]

Birgit Cullberg (right) rehearsing Miss Julie with dancers of the Iranian National Ballet Company. Ali Pourfarrokh on the left. 1977

The Iranian National Ballet Company started operating in 1958 with a dozen of dancers. The company grew to approximately 50 dancers, one third of them Iranian natives. The rest of the company members came mostly from Europe and the United States.[5][7][8][9]

Artistic directors[edit]

  • Nejad Ahmadzadeh (1958-1976)
  • Ali Pourfarrokh (1976-1979)

Principal choreographers[edit]

Ballet masters and rehearsal assistants[edit]

  • Yvonne Patterson (1959 - 1960)
  • Ann Cox
  • Marian English Delanian
  • Sandra Vane
  • Jacqueline de Warren (1965 - 1970)
  • Natalie Conus
  • Nicholas Beriozoff
  • Dudley Davies (1977 - 1979)


  1. Ayda Abolian
  2. Avak Abrahamian Salmasi (? - 1979)
  3. Valerik Abrahamian (? - 1979)
  4. Ahmad Adjdadi
  5. Adeleh Afrand
  6. Haideh Ahmadzadeh (1958 - 1975)
  7. Parvin Al-Amin
  8. Ronald K. Alexander
  9. Anne Allen (1978 - 1979)
  10. Jeremy Allen ? - 1979)
  11. Avisa Amirshahi
  12. Jenous Amirshahi
  13. Mary Apick
  14. Ahita Ardalan
  15. Azita Arfa
  16. Wendy Arshamian (? - 1979)
  17. Minoo Atabaki
  18. Clara Avanessian
  19. Ophelia Azarnia
  20. Banafsheh Bahramian
  21. Georgina Bahramian Coleman (? - 1979)
  22. Nejdeh Bahramian (? - 1979)
  23. James Bailey (1977 - 1978)
  24. Evelyn Balassanian (? - 1979)
  25. Mitra Behrouz
  26. Svetlana Beriosova
  27. Diana Biggart
  28. Nina Brzorad (1976 - 1979)
  29. Pippa Buck Power
  30. Aban Budin
  31. Margaret Bull
  32. John Butler
  33. Judyth Casey
  34. Haydeh Changizian (1972-1978)
  35. Robert Craset (1977 - 1979)
  36. Michael Dane
  37. Belinda (Lindy) Davies (? - 1979)
  38. Rosamund Davies
  39. Otis Daye (1977 - 1978)
  40. Rostam Dehmohbed
  41. Missy Denman (? - 1978)
  42. Yerjanik Djambazian
  43. Mehdi Doagoo
  44. Gavin Dorrian (1978 - 1979)
  45. Tomas Edwards (Martini) (? - 1978)
  46. Magdy El-Lethy (? - 1979)
  47. Jonathan Ellingham (1977 - 1979)
  48. Bahman Sadr Erfan
  49. Hilda Estepanian
  50. Fereshteh Fakoor
  51. Fereshteh Farazmand
  52. Ivan Ionathan Feller
  53. Martin Fredmann
  54. Parviz Ghanei (? - 1979)
  55. Farihan (Fari) Gheissari Akbarian
  56. Diane Gray (? - 1979)
  57. Michael Hall
  58. Mark Hammond (1977 - 1978)
  59. Mary Heathcote
  60. Caroline Heming (? - 1978)
  61. Dariush Hirbodian
  62. Behrooz Honarbakhsh
  63. Sarah Inglis Fricker
  64. David Jackson (? - 1978)
  65. Nader Jahanfard
  66. Sarvar (Sorur) Kaboli
  67. Nina Kavosi
  68. Nasser Kazemi
  69. Sudabeh Keshmirian
  70. Sholeh Katherina Kia
  71. Shideh Kia Nikkhoo (? - 1979)
  72. Ladan Kianpoor
  73. Jeremy Macdonald (1977 - 1978)
  74. Osama Maksood (1978 - 1979)
  75. Robert March (1976 - 1977)
  76. Debbie MacGee (1978-1979)
  77. Sam McManus
  78. Terri Mills Tester
  79. Frieda Minassian
  80. Golriz Mirjahangiri
  81. Nader Mirzadeh
  82. Rima Moghadam
  83. Farnoosh Moshiri
  84. Abdollah Nazemi
  85. Patricia Neary
  86. Leon Neshanian
  87. Jaleh Nikpay
  88. Judith (Judy) Odell (? - 1978)
  89. Karen Oram
  90. Gita Ostovani
  91. Gregory Pope (1977 - 1978)
  92. Mary Paranicas (1977 - 1978)
  93. Janet Popeleski (? - 1978)
  94. Virginia (Ginny) Portz
  95. Tibor Pusztai
  96. Mina Rad
  97. Chinko Rafique (? - 1977)
  98. Jaleh Rahbar
  99. Soheyla Razavi (? - 1979)
  100. Patricia Renzetti (1978 - 1979)
  101. Helen Riddington (? - 1978)
  102. Amanda Rivera Bruell (?-1978)
  103. Vivien Rycroft Richards (? - 1979)
  104. Soheila Sadr
  105. Djamshid Saghabashi (1958-1979)
  106. Fereydoon Saghabashi Tork
  107. Maggie (Burton) Saghabashi (? - 1979)
  108. Pari Samar
  109. Bahareh Sardari (? - 1979)
  110. John (Jay) Seaman (1977 - 1979)
  111. Susan Sepehran
  112. Roberta Senn Minto (1977 - 1978)
  113. Karen Smith (1977-1978)
  114. Azar Snider
  115. Sacha Spencer-Moore
  116. Diane Spinelli
  117. Clair Symonds Josephs
  118. Amin Taati
  119. Mersedeh Tahvildari
  120. Mary Tarverdian
  121. Kent Taylor
  122. Peggy Tehran
  123. Catherine Terzian
  124. Mark Thibodeau (1977 - 1978)
  125. Peter Towse (? - 1978)
  126. Behrooz Vasseghi (? - 1978)
  127. Sam Veal (? - 1978)
  128. Ali Aschar Vil
  129. Bethan Wiliams (1977 - 1978)
  130. Trevor Wood
  131. Wendy Woodbridge (1977 - 1978)
  132. Jennifer (Jenny) Wyatt (1974 - 1979)
  133. Nazila Zand-Karimi
  134. Vazgen Zarokian

Disbanding of the company[edit]

Iranian National Ballet Company's production of Sleeping Beauty. 1978

The civil unrest and political upheavals that caused the collapse of the Monarchy and establishment of a theocracy in Iran started in 1978 and was escalating rapidly. The last ballet production that was staged at the Roudaki Hall Opera was Sleeping Beauty during the fall season of 1978. By December 1978 and January 1979 the political situation of the country became more and more unstable. Almost all foreign members of the company left Iran during this period as soon as there was a flight available, before the complete collapse of the regime in February 1979. Employed dancers were informed that there were dismissed till the new government’s further notice. Eventually, a meeting was arranged in Bāgh-e Manzariyeh in northern Tehran soon after the victorious revolution in the presence of Roudaki Hall’s workforce and Ayatollah Mohammad Mofatteh. When he was asked about the fate of ballet in Iran, he replied irately and in no uncertain terms that Islamic Republic and ballet is paradoxical and self-contradictory. The Iranian National Ballet Company was thereafter formally declared as dissolved in 1979.[10]

Revival of the Iranian National Ballet Company in Les Ballets Persans[edit]

Twenty-three years after disbanding of the Iranian National Ballet, the Swedish-Iranian dancer, and choreographer Nima Kiann created a new company in Stockholm, Sweden[9] with the support of the Swedish authorities. Inspired by Les Ballets Russes and Ballets suédois as exiled dance companies representing vastly the culture of their countries, he named the company Les Ballets Persans (Persian: سازمان باله ایران‎‎).[11][12] The company repertory is entirely based on the Persian culture and heritage and does not include any works of the Western repertoire unless they are created based on Persian heritage. The project of revival of the Iranian National Ballet Company made an international impact and was regarded as the most extensive individual artistic project ever realized outside of Iran.


  • On the 35th year anniversary of disbanding of the company, on August 29, 2014, around forty former members of the Iranian National Ballet, including Nejad and Haideh Ahmadzadeh and Ali Pourfarrokh, gathered together in Washington DC to celebrate and share the accomplishments of the company. This was the first reunion of company members after leaving Tehran thirty-five years ago. In a message sent to this reunion, Nima Kiann the founder of Les Ballets Persans, the successor company of the Iranian National Ballet, wrote: ...On behalf of the new generation of Iranian ballet artists, I salute all attending and even absent members of the company this evening. Your collective accomplishment of the past time is today’s fundament on which this new generation is standing on. It is a reason of pride for the new and future generations of Iranians and a reminder of a passed time of development and progress for the art form of dance in Iran.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Official website of Les Ballets Persans (The New Iranian National Ballet)
  2. ^ Chronology of the Iranian National Ballet and Les Ballets Persans
  3. ^ Kiann, Nima (2000). Madame Yelena Avedisian. Eastern Dance Forum (Retrieved 2 Dec. 2014)
  4. ^ Ahmadzadeh, Haideh (2009). My life as a Persian Ballerina. Raleigh, NC: Lulu Enterprises Inc.
  5. ^ a b c Kiann, Nima. "Persian Dance and Its Forgotten History". Eastern Dance Forum. Retrieved 2014-08-20. 
  6. ^ a b Kiann, Nima (2015). History of Ballet in Iran. Wiesbaden: Reichert Publishing
  7. ^ Community page of the Iranian National Ballets Company at Facebook. List of former members
  8. ^ Community page of the Iranian National Ballets Company at Facebook. Timeline
  9. ^ a b Craine, Debra & Mackrell, Judith (2000). "Oxford Dictionary of Dance." New York: Oxford University Press
  10. ^ Koegler, Horst (1987). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Ballet. New York: Oxford University Press
  11. ^ ’’Les Ballets Persans.’’ (2002). World Premiere souvenir program booklet. Stockholm: LBP Publications
  12. ^ Patriot med mödosam mission. [Patriot with an arduous mission]. Article and interview in Göteborgs-Posten newspaper. 2000-01-26
  13. ^ Nima Kiann’s message to the reunion. August 29, 2014
  • Craine, Debra (2009). The Ballets Russes and the Art of Design. New York: The Monacelli Press. 

External links[edit]