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Bahareh and I
A conversation

Firoozeh Derakhshani
August 31, 2004

-- "It seems to be a blink away, you on the stage at the nutcracker in Roudaki hall of Tehran in 1975."

-- "Yes do you remember us in London in 1974 when I was studying at the Royal Ballet in London?"

-- "You know that our memories naturally tend to repeat the exaggerated events. I always recall your account of those girls who were willing to push their foot in front of their rivals for them to fall over, break their legs and let the stage open for them to shine better."

-- "You always catch my surprise with that memory of yours! I cannot recall anything of that sort!"

-- "But I can remember very well. Your London was small."

-- "I was about to leave for Paris to begin my journalism course with the Herald Tribune. You were so excited for learning that your Russian masters had already taught you well in Tehran, where there was a special interest for the formation of a world standard ballet company. Queen Farah kept a keen eye open on your stage."

-- "Yes Prime Minister Hoveda was also interested. He wrote a letter of introduction for me to find my way at the London Royal ballet for my first audition."

-- "Oh and do you remember how things turned around 180 degrees over night. Maurice Bejart the famous Belgian ballet master accepted my request for an audition but we could not ask for a visa since the Islamic revolutionary forces had closed down the airports. My bad luck!"

-- "Oh well, we had not realized who had replaced those who had left the prime minister's office at Pasture Street in old town Tehran near the Shah's emptied out palace."

-- "Well the Pahlavis replaced the Qajar dynasty. After the revolution when we went to those offices to get a visa we met Saeed Sanjabh, the son of a famous political player from the old National Front who was misled and became the means for political opportunists to climb over their heads and kick them out of power."

-- "We just know that he laughed at our request to be permitted to use the airport and leave Tehran because of a dance audition."

-- "Yes and he changed the course of your destiny then, but see how we can laugh at them now because they have been totally washed away. They did not respect the delicate fabric of cultural activities."

-- "Do you think that at that point in time he believed in ballet as an acceptable form of activity?"

-- "His father was invited to tea dancing parties organized by my grandpa General Parvaresh at the Officer's Club that was the part and parcel of the Marshall Plan in Tehran. They all danced Foxtrot and sentimental tango."

- "Nevertheless his laughter conveyed a bitter truth he believed at heart about us Iranians. I felt that he believed that we did not deserve all the good in the world of culture and international standards. He thought we ought to get what we deserve so they opened the way for the dogmatic clergy to come to power and crush all the modernization that our parents' generation and our grandparents' generation did in Iran. We headed straight out of the world's artistic and cultural scene."

-- "Yes that provincialism did not help the cause that the National Front was fighting for. Intimidated third world nations' griping for provincialism has led to less civility and more fascism. The popular democracy that took over -- at its best -- likes to hide women in compulsory black veils rather than seeing bare ballet dancers standing on their toes in the middle of a stage in front of the public."

"The masses were suppressed because the master player abused them by feeding the greed of those who would be willing to destroy the delicate fabric of our cultural life that allowed you to perform 'The Nutcracker' and be a professional ballerina for ten years before the revolution.

-- "Ten years! We could never imagine that those times would end and we would be forced out to live in self-exile."

- "So I went to Vienna and won a prize for my choreography. I have also taught dance and painting in the US since 1983."

- "You have been proving your talents since the age of 14 as a character dancer in ballet when the international dance masters used to frequent Talar Roudaki. I am always ever so proud of you."

-- "And I know how our friendship has enabled me to go forward , especially when you went out of your way to convince me to teach instead of going to Morris Bejart and become one of his stars. It was too painful to accept the reality. But your teaching experience at your aunt's school and hers at her aunt's school, especially the Women's Art School of Effat-ol-Molouk Khajehnouri and her sister Mrs. Shaghaghi. They  proved that teaching is one of the only open arms for Iranian female artists. Even though it has always been difficult. Especially for women to protect their friendship, while men are often jealous rivals more than art lovers."

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