The aim of this website is to serve as central reference for researchers as well as practitioners of Persian dance. It follows the philosophy of most other websites in the History of Dance Portal, that is to serve as a pandect where one can find everything related to a particular dance idiom.

The focus is on history, since the historical dimension is what is clearly lacking from most non-Western forms of dance. Too much of what one can read on the history of any dance is based on hearsay or imagination, rather than study of the original sources. We try to present these sources.

I owe the impulse for studying Persian dance to Ms Zahra Bakhtiari whom I first met in Tehran in May 2018. Our discussions later and her search in Persian manuscripts gave a further impetus. The earliest references I could find were in ancient Greek texts going back to the 5th century BC. Much of what is known about Persia in antiquity is scattered in Greek sources, still awaiting scholars to study it.

Another precious source is books by European travelers – during their stay in Persia they witnessed dancing and wrote about it – such accounts start in the 15th century and become more numerous in later periods. I have found several dance scenes described by them, certainly more can be discovered.

My guess is that not much information will be gleaned from Persian or Arab writers – dance was not the kind of subject that would draw their attention enough to be described. Manuscript illuminations confirm that professional dancers entertained rulers at all periods but I am afraid that we will never know details about the dance itself, even less about non-professional dancing.

Paintings, sculptures and artifacts from museums have also been gathered for the first time and presented in this website; certainly more can be found by future researchers to enrich this collection and serve as material for study.

In every country one hears dancers claim their dance is ‘ancient’; all books on dance devote at least some pages on the origins of this or that dance having roots many centuries ago (some go back to prehistory and primitive man!) without feeling the need to provide evidence.

Once all the information, textual as well as pictorial, from past periods has been gathered and studied, then the real history of Persian dance can be written. I am sure it will offer a very rich and colorful picture, as well as a scientific one, a history Persians will be justly proud of.

Alkis Raftis