“Freedom is not a product, it’s a daily practice” -Afshin Ghaffarian

In the volatile political and social climate of 2009 Tehran, Iran, Afshin Ghaffarian and a group of dancers risked everything to start a secret dance company, far from the prying eyes of the government police. His powerful true story was made into a 2014 British biographical drama film, Desert Dancer(April 26th, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto) starring Reece Ritchie and Frieda Pinto.

Afshin Ghaffarian will visit the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto in the days following the screening to present his solo dance piece Too Loud A Solitude (April 29).  Presenting an exclusive interview of the IRANIAN DANCER, CHOREOGRAPHER AND DIRECTOR REFORMANCES COMPANY IS BASED IN PARIS.

  • Please tell us your experiences as a dancer and who were your influences initially?

Afshin: My career as a performer began back in 1999, as a short film actor. I then went to the university to study theater. As a theatre student at University in Tehran, my friends and I were interested in and inspired by Grotowski’s theatre in Poland, Antonin Artaud in France, Julian Beck and Judith Malina in America , Eugenio Barba in Denmark, Tadashi Suzuki in Japan, etc. Through email, I was in contact with some great theatre figures, like Richard Schechner at NYU, and Eugenio Barba and Julia Varley  from the Odin Theatre in Denmark, among others. My  experiences have always been linked to other artists from around the world, and I am eternally grateful to be connected to these artists. In my company, I work also with French sociologist Baptiste Pizzinat, and we wrote a book together in 2013 titled “ Café des Réformances,” which is available in French. It’s a reflection on dance and society in general, an attempt to put words on our experiences. Sometimes we have to dance out our thoughts and vice versa!

  • Do you have any specific expectations about how people might experience your performance in Toronto and how it engages them?

Afshin: I carry my culture and my history in my own body. My way of expression is kneaded with my lived experiences, which is in constant contact with other cultures across the world. The way I express myself on stage should be seen in a larger context and not only confined to a certain geographical or cultural latitude.

I just try to express my life in my dance-theatre performances, the stories are just a pretext to talk about life. our life experiences are at the same time individuals and collectives. That’s why I don’t try to convey a specific message through my performances, I let the audiences make their own stories and take their own messages through the experience which we share together in the theatre.

  • What can audiences expect from ‘Too Loud a Solitude”?

Afshin: Too Loud a Solitude” is my latest piece adapted from a  Czech novel with the same name by Bohumil Hrabal. I read a translation in Farsi of this novel for the first time in Iran. In this work, we question the relationship between modern humans and machines. It’s a duet between a human and a popcorn machine. I don’t want to tell you more because I prefer my audience meets me and experiences the piece in the theatre.

  • What do you personally consider to be your most insightful moments in your work and/or career?

Afshin: Frankly there are no such moments in my artistic experience. I try to live every instants of my life. what’s important to me is to do art, to perform, and to have a real challenge when I’m on stage where I can reinvent myself  over and over again and express my own world each time—to be born anew.

  • Could you tell us about any other upcoming projects you are working on?

Afshin: I’m working on a new project based on a text by Jean Genet “Four hours in Shatila” on the 1982 genocide of the Palestinian civilians, in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut, Lebanon. It is his testimonial narrative about his visit to the two devastated camps immediately after the massacres.

  • Any final messages for our readers?

Afshin: Freedom is not a product. It is never once acquired forever. Rathe(r  freedom is a daily practice and a constant struggle for everyone, no matter where we live.

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