In some ways, the history of dance in Iran parallels the history of music, albeit in a much more restricted manner, especially in the case of recreational dance. In other words, in any period when music is forbidden, so is dance. If music is highly encouraged, then dance is more tolerated in society. This is more or less the case from the Arab invasion until the late 18th century. The ebb and fl ow of disapproval of dance continued afterwards, but in shorter cycles and with less intensity. Historically, some rulers have favored dance and even recruited dancers for their own court and some have not. Some were poets or musicians themselves and treated dance favorably either for artistic purposes or for entertainment. But the recorded history of Persian dances between the time of the Arab invasion and the rise of Karim Khân Zand to power remains very thin and often sporadic. This on-and-off negative attitude towards dance in Iranian history has made this art the least institutionalized form of performing arts until the twentieth century. Based on archaeological remains found in Iran, dance in pre-Islamic Iran appears to have been practiced since the emergence of Mithraism. A ritual ceremony in which Mithra sacrifi ced a bull was followed by a dance performed by men. Writing about the Achaemenid period, Greek historians make reference to dancers of Persia such as Zenon, a talented female dancer at the court of Artaxerxes II. Achaemenid kings used to participate in an autumn festival, known today as Mehrgân, during which Mithra was worshiped by dancers. Zoroastrian worships also involved ritualistic dancing. The Parthians adopted Greek theater and dance to their own taste, and the Sasanids developed a form of military dance in which their soldiers utilized their weapons rhythmically while riding on horseback. Decorative mosaics left from the palace of Shâhpur I show female dancers. An adventurer in hunting and love, Bahrâm Gur had many female entertainers in this court. Three of these entertainers were sisters, one playing harp, one singing, and one dancing. With the Arab invasion and rise of Islam, the performing arts came under severe restrictions and dance was perceived as an immoral and sinful activity . However, as mentioned before, with the passing of time new rulers revived the practice of entertainers for the court. Reportedly, Hârun-or-Rashid had hundreds of female dancers his court. Courtiers and nobility also employed young boys dressed as women for dancing. Women entertainers were viewed as morally lax and socially low in status. As Arab rulers indulged in luxury, corrupt practices, and worldly ambitions contrary to the egalitarian spirit of early Islam, Sufi sm emerged as a revolt against both this worldly orientation of the state and the establishment of formal orthodoxy in a society built on unequal distribution of wealth and power. Sufi s integrated devotional dance into their worship of God. Mystic poems by Rumi, Sa‘di, and Hâfez reinforced this positive attitude toward devotional dance. Attitudes of different Mongol rulers towards music and dance were contradictory. Some, like Timur , did not have a positive attitude towards dance and others are known to have frequented parties with dancers. The Safavids could not have openly endorsed dance as a legitimate activity, no matter what the true feelings of various rulers might have been in private. Given that their founder Safi -od-Din belonged to a Sufi order, Shi‘ism was their state ideology, and the ‘olamâ were very influential in their courts, dance was not viewed as morally acceptable. This especially became the case when Mohammad Bâqer Majlesi, one of the most respected religious scholars in the late Safavid period, developed a close relationship with the court and his opinion often affected the offi cial policy. Majlesi regarded dancing, even Sufi dancing, as a sinful activity. Yet, Shah ‘Abbâs, who ruled prior to Majlesi’s rise to prominence, had more tolerant attitudes towards worldly activities and reportedly there was a dance school in Isfahan during his reign. Supportive of the arts, Karim Khân Zand made the city of Shiraz a center of poetry, music, and dance. A form of dance accompanied by rhythmic and happy music became very popula—a precursor to recreational dance popular among secular urban middle classes in the twentieth century. The Zands’ supportive attitude continued during the Qâjâr period as well. Some Qâjâr kings had their own motrebs (a generic term used for musicians and dancers whose job was to entertain) in the court. Fath-‘Ali Shâh is known to have had a group of female dancers and male musicians in his court. His grandson Mohammad Shah also hired many dancers for court entertainment. It is from this period on that dance becomes an integral part of bazm s, which had been a gathering for poetry reading and Sufi dances in previous times. Motrebi dance became very popular, especially when incorporated into the ruhowzi theater and Nowruz celebrations. During the political instability associated with the Constitutional Revolution, dance lost its signifi cance and did not gain much attention until the rise of Rezâ Khân to power in 1920s. It is during the reign of the Pahlavis that dance came to be viewed not just an entertainment but also an art. As such, it started to be approached professionally. Modern education was used to teach various forms of dances. Traditional and folk dances were discovered, studied, and developed. Given the clerical opposition to dance, as well as negative public attitudes, teaching modern dances had to start gradually, on a small scale, and often in private sessions. Yelenâ Avedisiân opened a dance school first in Tabriz in 1927, and then in Tehran in 1928. These schools taught ballet lessons to children of upper classes. Most early teachers were either foreigners or non-Muslims. As time went by, the state protection and encouragement resulted in attraction of able dance teachers, especially for ballet. Two other important ballet teachers who had signifi cant role in dance education in Iran, in addition to Avedisiân, were Madame Cornelli and Serkis Jânbâziân. Although dance was still viewed negatively by the public, Rezâ Shah’s order to abolish the veil in 1936 served as an important catalyst for public performances by female dancers, first in the films, then in theater halls, and later in nightclubs. In the 1940s, more resources were devoted to preservation of traditional dances. The government hired an American, Nilla Cram Cook, to lead dance education. Cook helped to found the Iranian Ballet Company (IBC). Soon, IBC ensembles began touring foreign capitals offering Iranian dances and promoting Iranian cultural heritage. In the 1950s, Mohammad-Rezâ Shah showed a more positive attitude toward dance education, and again dance was integrated into the offi cial ceremonies. In 1958, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts established the National Folkloric Music, Song and Dance (NFMSD) in order to revive Persian old songs and dances. The NFMSD’s ensembles were routinely invited to perform in national ceremonies and for the guests of the state in the royal court. In subsequent years, they also performed and represented Iran in various international festivals. In 1962, Avedisiân expanded her activities and founded the Song and Dance Ensemble in Tehran. In 1967, the Iranian Folk Society (IFS) was established in order to, among other things, gather information and resources on various ethnic and folk dances in the country for promoting them both at home and abroad. The IFS worked on Iranian folk dances and ballet renditions of Persian classical epics. The government sent Iranian experts abroad for visiting opera houses, inviting foreign teachers, and preparing resources for expanding artistic forums in Iran. Tâlâr-e Rudaki (now renamed Vahdat Hall) was established for opera and other musical performances. The Pars National Ballet was established for attracting foreign dancers to teach and perform in Iran. In 1969, a new ballet department was established at the Music College in Tehran. In 1972, Hâydeh Changiziân, a former student of Avedisiân was appointed as the prima ballerina of the Iranian National Ballet. Classical and contemporary ballets, inspired by the Iranian history and literature, were written and performed with Persian musical compositions. Three such works included Shahrzâd (“Scheherezad”), Afsâneh-e khelqat (“The Myth of Creation”), and Bijan o Manijeh . During the Pahlavi period, efforts by the government, artists, and interested citizens, helped to institutionalize dance within the educational system and to elevate dance from a lowly means of entertainment to a respectable art form. Furthermore, dance was no longer viewed as an activity for the court or upper class families. Middle classes became interested in dance, nightclubs began to have regular dancers to entertain their customers, and several stylish restaurants with dance floors emerged as a hub for university students. In most wedding parties, even traditional ones, some kind of dance took place. If families were modern and affluent, they either arranged their own music or hired a musical group whose performance engaged guests in dancing. In traditional families, such parties were sex-segregated: men in a hall separate from women. But even in these traditional ones, in women’s section there was always some form of dancing in which mostly younger girls participated. Even in some traditional male parties, where dance was not favored in general, at times younger men still engaged in dancing as soon as conservative guests and elders had left the party. A dancer who contributed the most to the popularization of Persian dance among the middle classes is the talented and legendary Iranian woman who performs under the name Jamileh. She is a skilful dancer who started her career in the nightclubs as a belly dancer and in the course of a long career became, according to Robyn C. Friend, “the Goddess of Persian dance.” 4 As Jamelih became more practiced professionally, her performances became a staple of Film Fârsi movies. Once the revolution overthrew the Pahlavi regime in 1978 and the Islamic Republic was established, all dance related institutions and activities were abolished. Dance and ballet were banned as corrupt, perverse, and sinful activities. Some professional dancers quit, some went underground, and most left the country. Though dancing disappeared from the public scene throughout 1980s, starting in mid-1990s, folk dances performed by men were occasionally offered in public halls and television programs. Yet, dance did not disappear from people’s lives. As all un-Islamic forms of entertainment were banned, secular and even some conservative families used dance in private parties as a means of lifting up their spirits and warming up their gathering. Another person who has had a signifi cant role in the promotion of Persian dance is a young Iranian who migrated to the United States after the revolution. Mohammad Khordâdiân established Sabâh Dance Company in Los Angeles and succeeded in turning Iranian dances to aerobic forms. Videotapes of Khordâdiân’s fl ashy choreographies of folkloric and stylish Iranian dances, as well as his workout dance instructions, are imported to Iran illegally and widely viewed by both men and women. In major cities, his tapes are found in most houses where people engage in dancing. In 2002, while on a trip to Iran for visiting his ailing father, Khordâdiân was arrested and convicted of “corrupting behavior.” He was barred from giving dance classes for life and leaving Iran for 10 years. Furthermore, he was ordered to avoid public celebrations or weddings of non-relatives for three years. Later, Khordâdiân managed to leave Iran and now resides and performs in Turkey. Finally, a few words about Western dances in Iran are in order. Western dances were introduced in Iran by secular Iranians who had traveled to the West or by Westerners who came to Iran. They were performed only in private settings. In the 1970s, as television and cinema exposed Iranian youth to Western dances, they became a choice for secular urban youth in their private parties. Later, as Tehran became metropolitan and more Westernized, a few Western-style restaurant bars with dance fl oor opened and the upper and upper-middle class youth frequented them for dancing the tango, rock ’n’ roll, and other Western dances. Most recent reports by the Western journalists indicate that nowadays Western dances are widely performed by Iranian youth in their private parties.