x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

'Dance of Oneness' helps integrate body, mind and spirit

The choreographer Banafsheh Sayyad talks to Maey El Shoush about her performance in Dubai tomorrow and her unique dance style.

Banafsheh Sayyad's Dance of Oneness is inspired by several dance styles. Courtesy Banafsheh Sayyad
Banafsheh Sayyad's Dance of Oneness is inspired by several dance styles. Courtesy Banafsheh Sayyad

The California-based choreographer Banafsheh Sayyad will perform Dance of Oneness at Dubai Knowledge Village tomorrow and hold a series of workshops in Dubai until Friday.

Sayyad’s passion for the divine and dance led to the creation, in 2005, of Dance of Oneness, a dance style designed to “empower through conscious movement” and reflecting dance forms that include flamenco, t’ai chi, Sufi, Iranian and tribal.

The award-winning artist, who has Iranian roots, describes her certification dance programme as “taking dance back to its traditions of devotion and prayer”.

“The theoretical framework of this style comes from Sufism, the teachings of Rumi, the Gurdjieff Work, Chinese medicine and the chakra system,” says Sayyad, speaking ahead of her arrival in Dubai. “Dance of Oneness is a way of life – a rigorous, disciplined, passionate and joyful way to ‘embody the transcendent in the world’, which is what the Dalai Lama calls the meaning of life.”

She credits her father, the famous Iranian filmmaker and actor Parviz Sayyad, with influencing her choices. “His courage in expressing the truth and never compromising his integrity, as well as his vast reservoir of creativity, have been inspiring,” she said.

A recipient of a grant from the James -Irvine Foundation, Sayyad has worked with well-known choreographers from around the world, including Victoria Marks, David Rousseve and Donna Uchizono.

Rumi in spring

Sayyad has also choreographed a solo performance entitled Spring of Love, which is inspired by Rumi’s mystical poetry. The dance is set to Rumi’s poems, which will be recited in both English and Arabic, and features moves from Iranian classical dance and Sufi trance, while the music incorporates traces of flamenco and t’ai chi. “The objective is to celebrate Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, and the beginning of spring,” explains Sayyad, who has recreated the letters of the Farsi script as postures that, when put together, form words, some taken from Rumi’s poetry.

Inner guidance

The workshops Sayyad offers have different topics: Iranian dance combinations, “veil work” (participants have to bring a scarf), the Iranian-flamenco combination, and Sufi “whirling”.

The significance of the programme, says Sayyad, is to ensure that dance is kept alive across cultures and generations.     “Dance offers tools to survive emotional turmoil with grace, turning travesty into opportunity for growth, leading to social benefits as tolerance and a shared sense of oneness. Through dance, we have the opportunity to integrate mind, body and spirit, and the possibility to connect to the ‘source’ without any mediation.”

• Catch Dance of Oneness tomorrow at Dubai Knowledge Village, presented by the Dubai-based Documentary Voices. Workshops will be held from today until Friday in Al Quoz. For more information, visit www.documentaryvoices.com

melshoush@thenational.ae