A Brief About Persian Dance

Dr. Peyman Nasehpour

Dance is to move rhythmically to music. In every age and among every race dancing has existed either as recreation or as a religious manifestation in the world. Persian term for dance is 'bazi' though bazi literally means game, playing and sport. There are some expressions that they contain the word bazi in this meaning.

Here are some examples:

Pay-bazi: It literally means foot-dance. This expression has been mentioned in a pre-Islamic manuscript, named Khosro-va-Gholam. The other pre-Islamic Persian expression for dance is 'vachik'. Hafiz, the very famous Persian poet, has mentioned to this name once in his works too that I bring its translation here:

Dishevel Thy tress; and, to mystic dancing, bring the Sufi,
That, from every patch of his ragged garment, thousands of idols, Thou mayst scatter.

Chub-bazi: It literally means wood-dance. Please refer to Raghs-e-Chub.

Shamshir-bazi: It literally means sword dance.

The term 'raghs' is the most popular term for dance in today Persian language.

Hafiz, the very famous Persian poet, has mentioned in his works to the word 'raghs' eight times and I bring the translation of two beautiful verses of his poems.
Last night, when with the intention of dancing, my idol stood up,
From the tress, she unloosed the knot; and on the hearts of beloved ones beat.

To sweet song, and to the reed's voice sweet is the dance:
Especially, that dance wherein, an idol's hand, they take.

Here are some examples:

Raghs-e-Baluchi: Baluchistani Dance

Raghs-e-Pa: Dance to be based on movements of feet. This dance can be seen in zourkhaneh (Persian ancient gymnasium). Zourkahneh literally means house of power.

Raghs-e-Do-Pa: A kind of Kurdish and Lorestani dance.

Raghs-e-Se-Pa: A kind of Kurdish and Lorestani dance.

Raghs-e-Jalajel: Dance with tightening the jingles around the hands or the feet of dancer.

Raghs-e-Charpareh or Raghs-e-Chalpareh: A kind of dancing.

Raghs-e-Chep-chep: Dance with chalap. Chalap is a kind of cymbal that is played in mourning ceremonies. Its smaller size is played in festive ceremonies. Another names of Chalap are Chalab, Senj, Zang, and Tal. Tal is Indo-Persian name of cymbal.

Raghs-e-chubi or Raghs-e-chupi: A kind of dancing consist of at least two dancers that they beat wooden sticks to mark the rhythm. This kind of dancing can be found in Romania also.

Raghs-e-Halat: Dance of Sufis.

Raghs-Khaneh: Place for dancing. Khaneh literally means house and home.

Raghs-e-Darvishan: Dance of Dervishes.

Raghs-s-Shateri: Famous popular dance to be based on movements of bakers while they are cooking bread in bakeries.

Raghs-e-Shotori: Dance to be based on movements of camel.

Raghs-e-Shekam: A kind of dancing very popular in Egypt. It is called belly dance and in Iran it is called Arabic dance.

Raghs-e-Sheikhi: A kind of Persian folk dance in suburb of Iranshahr city.

Raghs-e-Arefan: Dance of Sufis.

Raghs-e-Ammi: Opposite of Raghs-e-Arefan. It is a kind of dance that has not a sophisticated aim.

Raghs-e-Ghasemabadi: A kind of Persian folk dance of Ghasemabad region to be located in North of Iran, Gilan province, showing the weeding of farmers.

Raghs-e-Kachul: A kind of dance to be mentioned in Persian literature.

Raghs-e-Torki: It literally means Turkish dance. But it is used for denoting the Azerbaijani folk dance. The most famous Azerbaijani dance is Lezgi. The other is diringi. Diringi is a light rhythm for dance music, though it is found in vocal music also. It is played in both low and high tempo, depending on the occasion of the performance. Diringi can be considered the same as Persian Reng. Reng is the principal dance form in Radif music. It can be improvised or composed, performed by one or more instruments. A reng usually occurs towards the end of a radif performance. Some famous rengs are included in the radif repertoire, while others have been composed later. It is almost always in 6 beats and medium tempo.

There is another interesting term for dance in Persian language.

Dast-Afshan: It literally means hand scattering. (Afshan is suffix and it literally means scattered.) But dast-afshan means dancing. In this meaning this word has been mentioned by Abd-al-Ghader-e-Maraghi in his books on Persian music. The expression dast-afshani-va-pay-kubi is for dance particularly Sufism dance.


Sama literally means a joyful song and comes from the Arabic word, sam that means to listen, but Sama' at whole means song (avaz), ecstasy (vajd) and dance (pay-kubi and dast-afshani) with its special rules and orders. Sama-o-raghs means the Sufism dance.

Brief About Ghajar Dance

Raghs-e-ba-zang (dance with castanets): The dancer wears two couple of small metallic bowl-shaped castanets. One is for thumb finger and the other for middle finger. The dancer marks the rhythm by striking them together. The history of this kind of dancing goes back to pre-Islamic ages.

Raghs-e-ba-Gilas (dancing with glass): Holding the glass with teeth in a way that the dancer bends from the back and the liquid of the glass should not be dropped.

Moallagh-zadan: To turn a somersault. Some dancers were turning a somersault during their dance performances.

Raghs-ba-Sham'dan: Sham'dan literally means candlestick. The dancer during the dance does the acrobatic movements and the lightened candle should not be blown out.

Raghs-e-Ard: Ard literally means flour. Some dancers were spreading the flour on the floor of the stage and by dancing on the tiptoes they were drawing a design or writing someone's name on the stage.

Female Dancers of Ghajar Period (Raghghaseh-ha-ye-Doreh-ye-Ghajar)

In the Ghajar period there were some famous female dancers who are mentioned in some historical books. The following are the name of these dancers:

Arus was specialist is raghs-e-chep-chep.

Akhtar-zangi was a good dancer and her name shows that she was skillful in raghs-e-ba-zang.

Zahra-ye-Ahad was a good dancer and specialist in using zang-e-riz (small zang) and since her father's name was Ahad she was titled to Zahra-ye-Ahad.

Galin was a good singer and dancer and the conductor of a group. Some of her students are: Malus, Jalis, Turan and Sedigheh.

Gohar was a good dancer and sister of Mashallah who was male dancer and kamancheh (Persian spike fiddle) player.

Munes was a good dancer and her sister, Anis, was a good tasnifkhan and dayereh (Persian frame drum) player.

Ghazal and Maral were both good dancers.

Ghamar-e-Saleki was a good dancer and tasnifkhan.

Heshmat was specialist in acrobatic movements such as Mo'allagh-zadan.

Monavvar-e-Shirazi was specialist in raghs-e-ard.


[KH]: Ruhollah Khaleghi, Sargozasht-e-Musighi-ye-Iran, Tehran, 1974.
[N]: Peyman Nasehpour, Personal Interview with Ostad Dadashi (Master of Azerbaijani Dance), 1992.
[S]: Mehdi Setayeshgar, Vazhe-Name-ye-Musighi-ye-Iran Zamin, Tehran, Vol. I (1995) & Vol. II (1996).