The History of IPA
The First International Iranian Dance Conference
Prior to the incorporation of IPA, the founding president of IPA, Sheila Eghbali and the vice president of IPA and president of then, Sarasota International Dance Festival (SIDAF Inc.), Mr. Robert de Warren, held the first International Iranian Dance Conference (IIDC) at San Francisco Ballet in 2012. In the 1960s and 70s, Mr. de Warren was appointed as the director of Iran's National Ballet and later commissioned to establish and direct the Mahalli Dancers of Iran (the first and only National Folkloric Dance Ensemble of Iran). With a wealth of knowledge and over ten years of research in Iranian dances, he was the featured master instructor at the first IIDC. Along with Ms. Indira Mehrpour (former member of Mahalli dancers), Mr. de Warren taught elements of dances from Bojnoord, Kohkiloyeh, Baluchistan, and the courts of Ghajar to Iranian dancers and dance instructors from across the globe.
The first conference was then evaluated and feedback was collected for planning the second conference. There was a strong interest in extending the length of the event from two days, separating the talk sessions from the dance workshops, diversifying the source of master instructors, and providing a complete choreography to organize the content and help the attendees retain the information learned.
The second International Iranian Dance Conference (IIDC)
In 2015, Mr. de Warren and Ms. Eghbali embarked on the second collaboration to hold the 2nd conference in Boston at Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre (JMBT). Ms. Eghbali invited several members of her dance troupe (The Iranian Dance Artists-IDA) and the director of the collaborating music group, Sayeh, to form what later became the Iranian Performing Arts. The initial goal was to plan the second conference while establishing a non-profit organization that would focus on preserving and teaching various forms of Iranian dance in their authentic forms.
The conference was held in August of 2015 with four dance styles: dances of Azerbaijan (Terekeme), Torbat-e-Jam, Ahwaz (Khanjar), and Guilan. The featured master instructor was the former choreographer and director of the Republic of Azerbaijan's State Dance Ensemble, Mr. Namus Zokhrabov. Additional guests included Ms. Mehrpour who also instructed at the first conference, Mahalli Dancers' soloist, Ms. Fatemeh Borhani, musicologist, Dr. Lloyd Miller, dance scholar, Dr. Ida Meftahi, musician, Mr. Parham Haghighi, and the pioneer of publishing Iranian regional dance music in Iran, Dr. Mansoureh Sabetzadeh. The conference was four days long with many public events to gather musicians in the Boston area, and engage the general audience with the speakers and with dance. The final night concluded with a performance night (Star Night), which included performances by attendees, as well as group dances learned at the conference.
The Third International Iranian Dance Conference and the Establishment of IPA
After the second conference, with strong support from the Iranian community, the Iranian Association of Boston, collaborating masters of Iranian dance and other dance experts, Ms. Eghbali established the Iranian Performing Arts Inc. (IPA) as a non-profit 501 (c)(3) entity.
Evaluating the goals and mission of the organization, as well as the surveys and assessment from the second conference, it had become clear that the organization needed to put all of its resources into uncovering and archiving all the dances of Iran in order to develop syllabi to train and certify teachers who were passionate about learning and preserving the dances of Iran. It was also clear that in order to continue to engage the community, and inspire audiences and the next generation, the organization needed a professional performing ensemble, one that can match the years of training Mr. de Warren's team put into the dancers who later formed the Mahalli dancers of Iran and shared the beautiful cultures of Iran across the globe. IPA is fortunate to have the mentorship and collaboration of Mr. de Warren who serves as the vice president of IPA. He continues his work and contribution to the preservation of Iranian dances through IPA.
With this, IPA's board planned the third conference in Fort Lauderdale, FL. However, shortly before announcing the date, the hosting institute discovered a scheduling conflict for the studios and the conference had to be delayed. This became an opportunity for IPA to focus all resources to building its foundation by fundraising and beginning the documentation process for the archives. IPA officially launched in June 2016 with the Debut dinner, attended by the strongest supporters in the Boston community. Before dinner, the audience had a chance to see several performances including dances from Baluchistan and Torbat-e-Jam, and hear personal stories from those who have watched their cultures die out across Iran. The event ended with an opportunity for everyone to join in and learn a few steps from different regions of Iran. The next morning, one of our representatives set off for the first archiving trip to Iran.
The Archiving Project
The Archiving Project will lead to a database to be established with a collaborating high education institute. Each year, the organization will archive a minimum of three dances. Archives will have varied levels of access for public, subscribing dance teachers, and academic researchers. The archives will include information including:
- A summary of each region including various dances, ceremonies when dances occurred, and current status of the dance
- A summary for each dance, including history, origin, and meaning
- A sample video of each dance style with the sample audio
- Original video of dances/dance moves from the source
- Description of each move for each dance including meaning and video demonstration
- Photo or drawing of costumes to demonstrate style(s), colors, and explain variations.
- Original files of interviews with primary sources (locals) about the culture, costumes, music, and dance of that region.
- Original files of interviews with secondary sources (those who studied with locals) about the culture, costumes, music, and dance of that region.
- Transcripts of the interviews in English
The goal for each dance is to find the common elements found across towns and villages in the area, and document any variation from village/town to village/town. IPA does not intend to define the authentic form, but rather sharing the findings with as many references as possible.
The Performance Project
IPA's Artistic Director is currently working on the storyboard for a full length production. This production will include dances from two regions of Iran as well as traditions and music specific to those regions. The music will have two styles: the traditional style will accompany traditional dances choreographed for stage; the classical style will include original composition played with instruments of that region and danced with lyrical dance based in Azeri dance, with elements of the dances of those two regions.
This production is being prepared for elite stages only. A full staff is required, including but not limited to:
- 12 professional male and female dancers who, after the initial phase, can commit 20 hours/week to prepare for the production.
- Light designer
- Sound engineer
- Stage manager
- Costume designer
- Graphic designer
In order to bring this project to respectable stages and present Iran to the world with all its beauty and richness, we need the support of the community. We need sustainable donors, corporate sponsors, and institutional grant support to complete the project.