“The great poets, Rumi and Hafez, have been pivotal to my journey.” – Melieka Fathi
1. What does dance mean to you? Tell us about a project that is the closest to your heart.
Dance is how I make sense of the world. It acts as a passage for me, to a creative and vibrant space where my mind can roam free. Classical Persian dance draws upon inspirations from ancient Persian artwork, architecture, history, and more. It tends to be a subjective space where my personal inspirations and thoughts can be blended with the rich elements of my heritage. As a first-generation Iranian-American and a daughter of immigrants, classical Persian dance defines the connection I have with my complex identity.
I have worked on multiple sentimental productions with my friend Mehdi Rostami who is the founder and director of the organization Persian Secrets. The photos within this blog post have been directed and photographed by him in addition to multiple video productions that can be found on my social media platforms. Our collaborations often shed light on the storytelling aspect of Persian dance and the emotional essence of the art form.
Another ongoing project I have been working on with another set of talented friends, from Kooban Ensemble, has enriched my admiration for folkloric Iranian dance. We have hosted several performances highlighting the music and dance from the many diverse regions of Iran. Our most recent performance was hosted by Farhang Foundation, a prestigious organization based in Southern California dedicated to the preservation of Iranian arts in the diaspora.
2.Tell us about your favourite poets, artists, and dervishes that have inspired you.
Persian poetry is a great source of inspiration for me. I call my choreography series “Poetry through Movement” because my dance style is heavily inspired by Iranian poetry in terms of its aesthetic architecture and emotional depth. The great poets, Rumi and Hafez, have been pivotal to my journey in addition to many present-day Iranian artists who recite their words through musical compositions. The music of Homayoun Shajarian, Alireza Ghorbani, and Shahram Nazeri, to name a few, have filled the arena of Iranian arts with thought-provoking and moving sounds. I am often inspired to create physical interpretations of their words through choreography.
3. What are some of the traditional, ritual aspects of the dance.
I have one main ritual when it comes to dance, regardless of the environment I am dancing in (on stage, in the studio, or at home). I believe in the importance of clearing my mind and creating space for receiving. In other words, I allow myself to be emotionally and mentally present. This, in my opinion, establishes respect for the creative process we engage in as artists. When I dance, I abandon any attachment I have to unnecessary thoughts and allow myself to be vulnerable. This ritual truly feeds my mind, body, and soul.
4. ''Tell us more about "Pomegranate Garden Dance". What inspired the initiative?
My lovely friend Natalie Nayun founded and created this wonderful platform once the Covid-19 pandemic moved towards global lockdowns. It has evolved into a collective where Persian and Silk Road-style dancers and enthusiasts can embrace their love for these art forms through live, virtual-classes and lectures. I have been teaching weekly classes on Pomegranate Garden Dance since its launch. It has kept me sane throughout this quarantine-life! The students we teach are some of the most passionate and loving humans I have come across. It is a beautiful platform that has made these, once hard to reach, art forms incredibly accessible. I am proud of and grateful for the contributions it has made to the world of Persian dance.
5. Who are the women that inspire you?
My mom is truly a source of inspiration for me. She is wildly creative and constantly finds ways to nourish her artistic energies through fashion design, jewellery making, and more. Having such a close symbol of creativity in my life is truly encouraging. In addition to this, I am inspired by the sacrifices she has made in her life journey as an Iranian immigrant and how she has managed to cultivate a life in an unfamiliar land. Many of the Iranian women I have met have similar stories.
Their struggles, successes, and individual experiences create gorgeous narratives that have shaped my outlook on life in more ways than I can count.
6. Could you tell us a few traditional beauty rituals or perhaps Persian beauty secrets you picked up from your family members while growing up?
One beauty secret that comes to mind is using rose water to cleanse the skin. Rose water is a staple in every Persian household and my mom introduced me to its soothing properties at a young age. I keep a glass bottle of rose water near my sink and use it to tone my skin at night. I often add a few drops to my water as well to reap the benefits of its antioxidants.
7. Could you tell us a few DIY tips for effective skincare? Or perhaps talk about your skincare routine?
I am a total skin care junkie! I have a multi-levelled skin care routine that I follow religiously. Cleanser, serum, moisturiser, and most importantly sunscreen!