Pulling The Strings

© Ali Sabooki / The Tehran Times

Pulling the Strings: A Marionette by Araz Fazaeli is a collaboration among The Tehran Times*, a number of Iranian Fashion Designers from all over the world, a team of photographers and two performers who played the role of marionette puppets in this editorial. The idea behind the project was first, to make a big multi-disciplinary collaboration possible bringing people together from various fields. A dance clip was also made alongside the editorial which could be found on the Instagram page of TheTehranTimes.

* From its inception in 2012, The Tehran Times has continuously sought to frame Iran’s thriving street fashion, lifestyle and pop culture from Tehran’s bleeding edge.

Senses in Beirut

© Jimmy Dabbagh

During the Beirut International Platform of Dance in April of 2017, Loic Perela together with 3 of the dancers from his piece, Senses were invited to perform the piece in Beirut.

As part of Moultaqa Leymoun organized by Maqamat Dance Theater, a workshop was given by Loic and two dancers from the Leymoun artists (Hoor Malas and Sina Saberi) were selected to join the dancers, learn the piece and perform it within bipod 2017.

About Senses:

“SENSES is an attempt to embrace the human senses as the elements that bind us human beings. In this fast and rapidly changing world, where agendas dictate our lives, we seem to keep longing for more without really knowing why. Can we slow down and pay attention to what surrounds us? To see, hear, feel, taste and smell. How can we use the natural functions of our body to (re-)discover and embrace the world around us to its full potential?”


Sideways Rain in Beirut

© Natalie Salsa . April 2016 . Chouf

Within the framework of Moutaqa Leymoun organized by Maqamat Dance Theater, 12 artists from all over the middle east were invited to Beirut during Beirut International Platform of Dance to present their own work and also collaborate in a very special project. We trained and learned ALIAS/Guilherme Botelho’s Sideways Rain up in the mountains of Chouf. The choreographer himself together with 4 dancers of the company helped us learn the piece very intensively and then the piece was performed during BIPOD festival.


MaHa ‘body movement’ Festival

© Sanaz Raeisi . March 2016 . Tehran

MaHa ‘body movement’ Festival had its first edition in the March of 2016. one year after ‘No. 3, Tehran’ the collective was able to receive the permission to initiate this overground ‘body movement’ festival with the support of Dramatic Arts Center of Iran and Daa Theater House and present 9 choreographic pieces by 9 artists. This festival went on for 9 days and welcomed a large number of people and made it to the public press. The significant point about this approved ‘body movement’ festival is the fact that it was a first since the beginning of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Some of the pieces presented in this festival are still touring internationally.

The list of works presented in the festival is as follows:

Room by Heeva Sedaqat
She by Armineh Astanbood
Prelude by Sina Saberi
Translation by Sanaz Raeisi
Parantheses by Maryam Bagheri Nesami
Shekarpareh by Mitra Ziaee Kia
Passage by Irandokht Yousefi
Suddenly by Mostafa Shabkhan

No. 3, Tehran

© Hooman Nobakht . March 2015 . Tehran

During this private event which took place in the underground studio of MaHa Collective, long before MaHa was founded, we presented 8 short pieces. Most of these works were the first choreographic tryouts of the artists involved. At the time, independent dance artist, Mostafa Shabkhan was in charge of training and mentorship for all these artists. This event took place for about one week and in our audience we welcomed film makers, visual artists, musicians, theater directors, performers etc. from various fields in order to share our choreographic experiences and also receive feedback for our processes. The artists involved in the project were: Mostafa Shabkhan, Maryam Bagheri Nesami, Mitra Ziaee Kia, Armineh Astanboos, Sanaz Raeisi, Shirin Farshbaf, Soroush Kariminejad, Mahsa Ranjbarian, Soheyla Salehi, Pooneh Baniasad & Ava Golkar.



letheSimply because this was one of the most intensely significant experiences of my life, I thought about sharing parts of it with you.

The journey began back in 2013 with constant echoes of these thoughts: What is movement? Do I know my body? Do I belong to this realm? Why am I doing this? What are we all trying to achieve? Is this a need or perhaps just another way to be?

My first inspiration for movement was the Greek myth of Poseidon. Coming from the world of Literature, I had already countless images from the God of the Sea and the dark world he’s associated with. I delved into this world of darkness and duality and it was already too late to detach from this Underworld of “concealment”.

The next assignments was to delve into dark moments of my childhood, to dig deep through the repression, touch upon the complexes and experience these notions through movement. At the time, the intention behind it all was simply to be part of this fascinating world that is expression through embodiment, but then came severe moments of ache and outflow of mindful pain. This felt so intense on my soul and I knew, if I were to keep moving in this path, I needed to remain aware, alert and awake.

Days passed by, weeks, bruises, months (twenty one to be precise!)

What happens to us when we go through such long periods of creative engagement in a piece that deals with so much darkness? A gloom that is projected from the reality of our actual dailiness; our daily life. This was on my mind time and again throughout the intensity. Were we simply reflecting the shadows or were we at least retaining some light, some shimmering hope?

The piece faced rejection last January when it was performed it in front of the jury that decides on permissions for Fajr International Theater Festival where we had initially hoped for the show to premier. I can just recall a certain feeling of awe and emptiness when this occurred. For us not to be able to share this extensive process with an actual audience after a little under two years of constant effort in communicating something that needed to be communicated was extremely discouraging and like a wet slap in the face.

We had to take all the pain, all the repression which was already out, back inside, down to the Underworld where it had come from and put a lid on it all for god only knew how long. To repress the repressions was a rather challenging experience. There was a one year gap in which many things happened; people’s paths diverged far from that of one another as well as from Lethe and we became victims of the forgetfulness we had started with; only this time, the object had become us.

When I got a call from our director, Atefeh Tehrani, about the possibility of the show going on the most renowned theater venue of Tehran (City Theater of Tehran) late summer, I had a very hard time saying yes to still being part of it. I was not sure if I would want to go through the pain once more and re-live those emotions and let them flow through my limbs for over 30 consecutive nights! You see, in Tehran when you do a show, you do it for at least one month.

This meant, 30 nights of exposing some of the most intricate wounds of childhood to a general public, hoping for healing powers in drama to nurse these wounds and transfer the positive through the pain. It ultimately became a state of being, an intention for movement.

There were other aspects to this project which made it impossible to say no to, despite the severe mental and physical pressure which it entailed. The fact that it was a particularly “physical” piece that normally doesn’t make it to a public stage in Tehran would be number one.

The fact that this director had not been able-due to circumstances-to create for over 5 years and that this made Lethe a great contribution to the avant-garde presence of drama in Tehran was number two.

The fact that THIS is considered a certain point in a certain collective map in a certain timeline is number three.

And last, the fact that a collective mind had put their souls, sweat and blood in creating something which had been imagined at some point, by the same collective mind and needed to live its life.

Lethe became a resting place for all the tension, tears and trouble. The forgetfulness helped me remember that there are so many reasons to stay alive and live among the living. I no longer feel forgotten nor forgetful.

Lethe helped me remember.

January 2017

sonia’s legacy


Upon having my very first theatrical experience on stage, I felt the need to share the experience with my readers here. The play was an adaptation of “House Painters Have No Memories” by Dario Fo. I played the role of Sonia in the play. We had added notions of sexual duality & identity in this role which for me alone held much meaning. Hope you enjoy:

Who Sonia was, I mean the real Sonia: the one who would put aside all her worries & concerns, the one who’d rush towards the stage and jump on it and start changing into clothes which would otherwise deconstruct her and turn her into who she might have been, who she could have been, who she would be and who she truly was. she would bear much stress and make sure no one sees that she is changing into other clothing and yet she would ever blatantly face the audience and put on that lip stick and leave.

What men knew of women as well as that which women knew of men; Sonia was aware of both. Sonia knew very well how it felt to be a woman; she knew how to be a man also. she had been both; for as long as one eternity. she could feel the pain of being misunderstood as well as the ache of not being understood at all. this playful being would take pleasure in speaking through the silence, to and for those who might possibly hear her out. she spoke to her own self, she spoke to me and to you also. she expressed duality and the inevitability of all souls which are too big for this world. Sonia was a poly-personage who would at many points manage to unify all those persons into one single form: Sonia, regardless of sexuality, sexual identity and gender.

A mere point of interest emerges when i point out the fact that despite the variety and versatility in who she was, the other characters would accept her as “Sonia” and would try to have communication with her, if even very short-lived and perishable. the reason for that must have been the fact that she was real whatever she was, she knew of her purpose and she was determined. she had long let go of all the fears which would at any point hinder who she was.

I personally learned much from the presence which was Sonia. she would come to life around 9:00 pm every night for one month. she would be regardless of all that has bothered us; she had merely one purpose; to be and to fulfill her purpose: being Sonia. she taught me of assurance, of independence & heartfelt decisions which would only glorify her as an individual. she knew when to be sweet, when to be absolutely mad and when to suddenly burst into tears and then instantly burst out laughing. she taught me that you can be whatever you wish to be; you may define and redefine who you are; you may construct and deconstruct your own character.

What we could-if we really really wanted to-learn from Sonia, is the fact that situations, colors, clothing, gender, sexual identity & the people we encounter do not define us; they do not give us meaning about who we are. the mirror which Sonia held as she moved around the stage every night taught me all that. at times she would look into the mirror and see herself, at times who would look into it to communicate with others and at times the audience would see through the mirror. we are who we are, mirrors or no mirrors. but that inner mirror inside of us, the one that resembles our true self, that’s the one that needs looking into. that’s the one which would bring about self discovery at the end of the day when every single soul has failed us, when circumstances have turned us into dust, when nothing else has truly helped. there we are, the real Sonias waiting to break out all boundaries and emerge as a true self, filled with the magic of Life…

To Sonia who shall forever live.

July 2013