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Iranian Dance: Axis of Love

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Derwish in Pera. Early 1700s
Oil on canvas, 76 × 118 cm. At the Rijksmuseum

Banafsheh Sayyad dances a piece based on Iranian traditional dances that are deeply rooted in the Sufi movement of spinning. Sufi whirling/ spinning is a form of physically active meditation which originated among Sufis, and which is still practiced by the Sufi Mevlevi Dervishes. This is a customary dance performed within the worship ceremony, through which dervishes (or semazens) aim to reach the source of all perfection, or ‘kemal’. This is achieved through abandoning one’s nafs, egos or personal desires, by listening to the music, focusing on the divine and spinning one’s body in repetitive circles, which has been seen as a symbolic imitation of planets in the Solar System orbiting the sun.

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