Performing Nation's Angels and Princesses: The Female Dancing Subjects of a Century-Old Iranian Nationalist Stage (in English)

Bilingual Lecture Series

Performing Nation

A lecture by Ida Meftahi (University of Maryland)

Monday, April 15, 2019
2:00 PM
365 Kaplan Hall

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In early twentieth-century Iran a nationalist-modernist theatrical milieu emerged that was to educate the society through performing arts. While touring companies from neighboring regions showcased new genres of arts on the Iranian stage, the dispersion of ethno-religious minorities in the region added to the Iranian scene new artistic skills in ballet, theatre and music as well as female performers who were previously absent in the Iranian public sphere and transvestite zanpush acted the female roles. The cohabitation of new genres with their indigenous counterparts led to new conventions in Iranian performing arts including the Operettas, which combined music, poetry, singing, acting and dancing. Deploying romantic themes from the depository of Persian literature – the greatest of Iranian arts – the operettas became sites for enthusiast audiences to view the ideal bodies of their national heroes and heroines as they were dancing and singing to Persian music. In the decades to follow, Operettas lost momentum while each of these disciplines – including the “national dance” – became professionalized. After a century, being attuned to Persian classical music and featuring literary motifs through a combination of ballet and indigenous movements have remained a scapegoat for Iranian dance to claim national legitimacy. This presentation traces the female dancing subject of the nationalist stage – from the early operettas to the national dances presented prior to the Revolution of 1979 and the recently-emerged Operettas of current Iran – and explores the ways she embodies the ideas, aesthetics and ethics of Iranian nationalism and modernity in her recurrent characterization as Persian princesses and angels.

Ida Meftahi is a historian specializing in modern Iran with a focus on the intersections of politics, gender, and performance (in its broader Goffmanian sense). She holds a PhD from the University of Toronto’s Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations and has been a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University (2013-14) as well as visiting assistant professor of contemporary Iranian culture and society at the University of Maryland (2014-18). Her first book, Gender and Dance in Modern Iran: Biopolitics on Stage was released in spring 2016 which won the prestigious Latifeh Yarshater Award for its original contribution to the literature on Iranian Women's Studies. Meftahi’s scholarship has been published in numerous scholarly journals and volumes including Islam and Popular Arts (2016), Oxford Handbook of Dance and Ethnicity (2016), IranNameh (2016), International Journal of Middle East Studies (2016), and the bilingual Clio. Femmes, Genre, Histoire (2018). She is currently working on her second manuscript, a geo-political reading of Tehran’s historic Lalehzar district and its vicinity, while simultaneously directing the Lalehzar Digital Project.




Campus map is available HERE

Cost : Free and open to the public.

Sponsor(s): Center for Near Eastern Studies, Iranian Studies, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, This event is made possible with the major support of the Amuzegar Chair in Iranian Studies and the Musa Sabi Term Chair of Iranian Studies.