May I Have This Dance?

Shirin Abedi, Germany

In a long red dress with a small crown in her hair, Mojdeh dances in front of a red curtain in the cheer of a female audience in Tehran, Iran. Nona (18), Mojdeh (21), Reyhaneh (22) and Yasamin (22) belong to the same ballet group in Tehran. They are part of the Iranian post-war generation, which stands up for self-determination, freedom and equality.

In 1958 the Iranian national ballet company was established and produced over 50 shows till the revolution. According to the Iranian law, immorality and fornication result from sensual dance, why 1979 all dance facilities got dissolved and dance got banned from the public. Nevertheless, more and more Iranians are dancing today and try to make this their profession. The ballerina Pardis formed a ballet group with Nima, a contemporary dancer, in 2008, which ten years later performed for the first time after the revolution with both women and men on Tehran‘s most famous stage.

Having said that, the group is struggling with reprisals: Already approved plays are cancelled, the light is turned off during the performance and too much public attention, such on Instagram for instance may result in the arrest of the participating artists. Whereas during the revolution ballet‘s abolition symbolized independence from the West, today dance stands for the longing of a generation for Western freedom.

This story is about the social change in Iran on the basis of a subculture in which dance is elementary to life. The dancers show a peaceful resistance to a patriarchal and fundamental society. By this, they represent a whole generation, who reclaims their desired future.

Discover more: Shortlist 2020