“Any movement that’s feminine has to be cut” – Ballet in Iran

Earlier this week I was working with the ballet maestro Jean-Pascal Cabardos, who trained Billy for Billy Elliot. Not that Little Black Fish has been dancing en pointe (we were working on texts), though I have indulged in the ballet craze that has swept London and joined classes at Everybody Ballet, dancing whenever it took my mood and wearing whatever I felt like wearing.

This concept of ballet open to everyone is incredible when reading Her life as a Persian Ballerina. It is an insightful account of life as a dancer and choreographer in today’s Iran — the compromises to approach and style required. As well as the more obvious clothing restrictions, the  more sensual performances are assigned to male performers. It also touches on the representation of dance and its psychological effects.

It’s hard to imagine a time when things were different. But they were. My introduction to ballet began in 1970s’ Tehran. At the time the Ministry of Culture had established the Iranian National Ballet Company, performing Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty among other classics at Tehran’s Roudaki Hall. The company collaborated with dance schools worldwide and Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn visited Iran in 1969 and set up Le Corsaire.

Needless to say the Islamic government terminated the company in 1979. A concise and very interesting history of dance in Iran can be read here, written by Nima Kiann who founded a successor company, Les Ballet Persans, in Sweden in 2001.

Circus reopens in Turkmenistan, but ballet still banned

The circus has finally returned to Ashgabat after a nine-year long absence, following the legacy of previous President Niyazov, who banned the cinema, opera, ballet, lip-synching, gold teeth, long hair and beards for men, as well as renaming all the days of the week and month after members of his family. On Friday, the first circus show was attended by current President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov as well as 1,500 children. Berdymukhamedov has reversed nearly all the bans, except for ballet, which was originally outlawed as the “scantily clad women offended Turkmen morality”.

BBC condemned for pulling “pregnant nun” ballet

The BBC has come under fire for pulling sections of the Sergei Diaghilev ballet from its Christmas television schedule after discovering it featured a deformed Pope who rapes nuns. BBC4 was due to show Eternal Damnation to Sancho and Sanchez in a pre-watershed slot over Christmas. The shows producer Javier de Frutos has hit back saying he believes the decision is “silly as well as dangerous”. Composer Thomas Adès added: “To pull it from the programme is a shocking, terrible mistake, and shows a disgraceful, pathetic and worrying loss of nerve on the part of the BBC.” Read more here