Banafsheh, the Dancer, Choreographer and Artistic Director
Iranian-born dance artist and transformational teacher, Banafsheh communicates the universal message of Sufi mysticism in a passionate yet meditative way. Her dance is an interplay between trance and directed movement, completely precise yet completely abandoned and unrestrained. Her explosive movement is sensual and ritualistic, an organic trance of impeccable technique gone wild yet anchored by a serene core. She invokes the ancient roots of dance as devotion and prayer while blazing an unique trail in contemporary dance with her masterly fusion of high level dance technique and spirituality.
Her mesmerizing offering of the timeless Divine Feminine inside a contemporary gypsy dervish beckons all to engage, impart, and exalt. She is one of the few bearers of authentic Persian dance in the world, an innovator of Sufi dance previously only performed by men and a pioneer in contemporary Persian dance, all of which characterize the form she has created called Dance of Oneness®.
Internationally known for her innovative movement vocabulary and high artistic and educational standards, she draws from her extensive background in Sufism, Persian dance and ritual, Tai Chi and Flamenco to present a new form, rooted in tradition yet universal, "fusing ancient forms with a postmodern punch" (Los Angeles Times). Her movement is comprised in part by the Persian alphabet she has translated into gestures and movement, which when put together one dances out words and poetic stanzas, mostly taken from the works of the great mystic poet, Rumi, whom she has studied extensively, resonating with his fierce yet gentle essence that beckons each and everyone to break through conformity and limitation to find their individual glory.
Banafsheh comes from a long lineage of pioneering performing artists. Her father, the legendary Iranian filmmaker, theater director and actor, Parviz Sayyad, hailed as the Charlie Chaplin of Iran, is the most famous Iranian of his time. Banafsheh is a recipient of the prestigious James Irvine Foundation grant in Dance. She holds an MFA in Dance from UCLA where she taught Persian dance. She has studied with some of the great masters in dance and choreography including Antonia Rojos, Victoria Marks, David Rousseve and Donna Uchizono. Also an acupuncturist, she draws from the Taoist view of the internal functioning of the body to uncover the healing, rejuvenating aspects of movement. Banafsheh's solo and ensemble work with her dance company, NAMAH have been presented extensively in festivals and by dance presenters in North America, Europe and Australia where she has gained tremendous audience and critical acclaim. She recently performed at the closing night of the Festival of Sacred Arts in Madrdi at Teatros del Canal. Her 2011 dance film In the Fire of Grace with author and scholar, Andrew Harvey traces Rumi’s journey of the Soul in dance.
Banafsheh, the Teacher
As a transformational teacher, Banafsheh's teaching is "life changing". A pioneer in a fusion of rigorous dance technique with spirituality, she combines the art of Sufi Whirling Dervishes, Persian dance and Flamenco into a self-illuminating, healing dance she has founded called Dance of Oneness®, a Certification Program she teaches around the world, guiding people to find themselves and their inner bliss through dance.
Banafsheh's spiritual teachings through dance, movement and meditation revolve around joyously embodying the transcendent. “Love your body; love your Self, and live in the world as a Lover” are the elemental messages Banafsheh encourages her students to experience.
She teaches a wide variety of people - professional dancers, dance, yoga and movement teachers, and people with no background in movement, – to create and transform their inner states with coded postures and movements.
Banafsheh teaches across North America, Europe and Turkey including Esalen Institute in California, Kripalu Center in Massachusetts, The Dance Center at Columbia College, Chicago and Hollyhock on Cortes Island, BC. She has recently designed a program called Embody Oneness for non-dancers to discover movement as healing, self-illuminating, and intimately connected to Spirit.
Banafsheh is available for solo performances with recorded or live music of 1 - 5 musicians. Her music partners are ZARBANG and Tony Khalife. She also performs with noted Rumi scholar, writer, and mystic Andrew Harvey.
She is also available as guest dancer with dance companies and music ensembles; and for choreography commissions.
Banafsheh is available for speaking engagements and lecture/demonstrations on Sacred Dance, Persian Dance, Rumi, Sufism, Dance of Oneness, and Women’s Voices in the Middle East.
“Part whirling dervish, part flamenco femme fatale, sensuous and audacious, Banafsheh’s dance is a mesmerizing foray into the body as trance mechanism; a DNA strand, supple, fluid and noble, come to life.”
Los Angeles Times
“Banafsheh’s body moved in trance, exuding a supernatural power as the vortex which seemed to take the submitting body higher and higher became really perceptible. At the end in a spectacular finale she improvised on a flamenco-rhythm, and dance movements from the Middle East merged together with Iberian gestures.”
Badische Zeitung, Germany
“In watching Banafsheh dance, I knew I was witnessing a master performer in action.”
Watch Banafsheh now on our Video Gallery!