Dance in Iran represents a mixture of elements drawn from diverse sources, some similar to those in neighboring countries, some uniquely related to cultures and customs of people living within a specific region in Iran today, and some synthesizing both foreign and native influences. For instance, ethnic dances found among Iranian Kurds and Turkomans are very similar to those practiced by these ethnic groups beyond current borders of Iran. Or what is known as “ Tehrâni dance” contains elements of various Iranian dances, and even Arabic dance. Therefore, it is important to emphasize that the cultural borders of dance forms in Iran go far beyond current geographical borders and may have to be traced to neighboring Arab and non-Arab countries, especially Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and even Armenia and Georgia. Some defi ne dance as the rhythmic movement of the body for various purposes: prayer, self-expression, celebration, pleasure, etc. Others argue that since some of these activities are not intended as dance by performers, and are not conducted with the goal of either pleasure or demonstration of artistic movement for others, then they should not be considered dance. In Iran, there are activities classifi ed commonly as “sports” or “ rituals” and yet some art historians consider them as dance. For instance, the self-flagellation and the rhythmic movements of body and hands during the procession of Moharram might have derived from dances from pre-Islamic Zoroastrian practices. Or sports activities performed in the zur-khâneh (the “house of strength” or sports center) may be continuations of pre-Islamic military dances. Many forms of dance are found in Iran: ethnic/tribal, ritualistic/ spiritual, therapeutic/healing, ceremonial, athletic, and recreational. Some are specific to ethnic groups, some to men, some to women, and some to both. Some are specific to certain occasions and some are performed wherever the conditions have demanded. Some dances were performed in the past but are no longer practiced. Except for Sufi dances and folk/ethnic dances associated with certain events like weddings, seasonal festivals, and national holidays, dance is not an integral aspect of social life in Iran. It is an occasional entertainment heavily dependent on the circumstances and context. Since the arrival of Islam, recreational dance, like music, has acquired a paradoxical status in Iranian society. On the one hand, it has had a relatively steady presence, with variation in the form and frequency, in privacy of the royal court and some homes. On the other hand, it has been condemned religiously and not recognized as a legitimate form of performing art. As a result, until recent times, recreational dance in Iran has not been subject to the kind of systematic codification and organized transmission through formal study and instruction that can be seen in the history of other Asian and Western dances. Dances in rural areas are often of the folk type and are not viewed negatively. Folk dances are marked by intricate hand, arm, and feet movements along with shimmering costumes. Though most folk dances are conducted in group, by both men and women, there are folk dances involving only solo dancers. Though no touching is involved in these dances, if conducted collectively, participants may hold each other’s hands in a chain format. If they do not hold hands, individual dancers perform the same movements in unison. Collective dances may involve performing in circle or in line-up. They are often guided by a dance leader who signals the steps at the end of the line or in the middle of the circle. It is common to use an object, like a handkerchief, for signaling the change in the movements. These dances are often performed as a community matter and involve both young and old. Some tribal folk dances are associated with seasons and certain produce, like the “dance of rice” and the “dance of winter.” These dances involve body movements demonstrating activities associated with the occasion. For instance, women in Gilân perform the “dance of rice” during the harvest season. While holding a tray, dancers move their hands and body in a coordinated manner to demonstrate collection, cleaning, and preparation of rice. Some dances involve the use of objects like a short stick, handkerchief, or sword. Some of the latter are more systematic and might have originated from combat, and others are less systematic and the object serves either as a symbol or an expressive tool for enhancing the effect of the performance. For instance, in some Turkish dances, performers carry a sword. In a popular folk dance known as chub-bâzi (stick dance, also called tarkeh-bâzî or twig dance among Bakhtiâri tribes), the dancer performs with a stick in hand. In some dances, hitting two sticks together is part of the music and rhythm of the dance. The use of an object may follow either a defi nite rhythmic pattern or instantaneous improvised movements. Modern Iranian folk dances can be broken into four categories: (a) those in their traditional form without much change, often performed among the ethnic groups and in rural areas; (b) those which have been slightly modifi ed and are performed by trained dancers on the stage; (c) artistic folk dances studied and taught systematically by dance schools; and (d) those choreographed and composed with modern techniques. All four types are still performed in Iran, though the third and fourth types are receiving attention by Iranian immigrant artists working in the West. While some of folk dances are ethnic and some religious, there are also those representing both. Mystical or Sufi dance ( samâ ‘ ) is spiritual in nature and is performed by dervishe s in their khânqâhs (retreats), often in presence of a master Sufi or shaykh. It is accompanied by music and poetry reading, mostly from Hâfez, Rumi, and other mystic poets. To Sufi s, God resides not in books and words but in the fl ow, rhyme, and sound of objects, material or non- material. Sufi dances, like music, rhythms, soulful melodies, poetry, and spiritual instructions, help the person to achieve ecstasy and unity with God. Qâderi Sufi s of Iranian Kurdistan are well known for their spiritual dancing during which, in the frenzy of movement and ecstasy, some men even cut themselves. It should be noted that many Sufi s do not refer to samâ‘ as a dance because of the ambivalent attitude and religious concerns about dance in Islamic societies. Samâ‘ also has been a source of inspiration not only for practicing Sufi s but also for non-Muslim choreographers who see it as one of the most delicate form of spiritual dance. Samâ‘ dances are not limited to Muslims. Zoroastrians also practice a form of mystical dance involving violent shaking of the body and chanting in order to achieve ecstasy. Somewhat related to mystic/religious dances are also healing dances, like the dance of shafâ‘ among Baluchis. In these dances, the person is believed to be possessed by an evil spirit. To get rid of the spirit, the afflicted shakes her or his body in certain manner until falling into a trance—manifested in shivering, cries, tears, and intense movements. In southern Iran, females believed to be affl icted by jinns are covered with a veil and asked to dance for 30 to 45 minutes to the beat of a drum, in order to rid their body of the evil spirit. Recreational dance is closest to what one may call “Persian dance”—not very different than what others have called “ Tehrâni dance.” It involves the rhythmic movement of the shoulder, simultaneous curving of arms and hips, and coordinated facial expressions. The latter is extremely important because the dance is often done either for or in front of others, thus without emotional conveyance, not much is delivered. Foot movement is not as essential as it is in Western dances. Foot movements are slight and often in coordination with body movements. This type of dance does not follow any rule in terms of the number of people involved, the order of movements, and the extent of improvising. It emphasizes the agility of the upper body parts and face. At times, depending on accompanying music, occasional clapping and/or snapping of fi ngers are performed too. If conducted collectively, two or more performers many dance in unison. These collective dances reduce improvisation and shift the emphasis from facial expressions to body positions and footwork. During the Qâjâr period, this recreational dance became an integral part of bazm s (parties) and was performed purely for pleasure. As it evolved in the decades later, it became the major source of entertainment for private gatherings in urban areas and even weddings in some rural towns. Forms of this dance include those known as motrebi, ruhowzi, Bâbâ Karam, shâteri and Tehrâni; a style known variously as lâti , jâheli , or kolâh makhmali is one of the most popular dances in cabarets and Film Fârsi . Another version of this dance, with a strong focus on hip movements is called qer Kamari (qer means “movement” and Kamar refers to the hips). Qer dâdan is often used as a reference to body movement in dance from. In the Qâjâr period, and even in the early Pahlavi period, recreational dance was performed in sex-segregated settings: female dancers or boys dressed as women danced for men-only parties and women for female parties. After the 1960s, some modern families began mixed dancing, and nowadays it is a common practice in confines of the private home among Westernized youth in urban areas. Mixed dancing was also more common among religious minorities, especially non- Muslims. Since there was no formal instruction, or even schooling, for this kind of dance, men and women learned it by watching others doing it. Young girls are often taught by their mothers, other family members, or peers. Unlike the Sufi dance of samâ‘, which serves as a religious practice, recreational dances are situational and are performed in occasions where the right conditions, performers, and audience are present. Situations in which people engage in dancing are varied and until the conditions are right, participants may not initiate dancing. Merry situations and happy times are the most common occasions when this kind of dance is performed. While dancing is common during weddings, not all weddings are accompanied by dancing. Generally, religiously oriented Muslim families reject dancing as sinful activity all together. Yet, at some religious weddings, dancing takes place in areas reserved exclusively for women. Recreational dance is improvisational in nature. Even the most skillful dancers rely on their own determination and creativity rather than on a systematic set of rules and practices. The lack of fixed rules provides dancers the opportunity to be creative and improvise according to the mood and context of the performance. In fact, this improvisational aspect has introduced fl exibility and spontaneity as two most important features of Persian recreational dance—features more adapt to informal settings rather than formal dance halls in Western countries. As this dance became a desired form of entertainment for emerging middle classes, it became a standard feature of new nightclubs emerging in northern Tehran in 1930–40s. Its popularization was related to the growth of theater and cinema. It was this close association with entertainment that preserved this form of dance in a vulgar format until the time of Mohammad-Rezâ Pahlavi, when formal dance schools began to approach it more professionally.