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by Marcel Bieger
with friendly support from Pari
Interview with Banafsheh Sayyad
Photos: André Elbing
I put a poem from Rumi in the programme. It is very beautiful because it says “Oh my drunken heart, where are you going? – And the Divine says: “Silence is coming to me.” And the man says: “But I thought you belonged to me, why are you going outside of me? Where are you going?” And the king says: “It is ours, it is not even yours, it is our champion, it is the seat, it is my seat in you.”

From there we went into the music and behind that stood another message: Know yourself. We always hear that in all the great teachings. Know thyself and you will know the secrets of the universe. After that we went into “How do I know myself”. When will I see myself as I truly am? Free from all my habits, beyond all of that, when will I be able to see myself? In that chapter I use another poem of Rumi in which somebody asks: “Oh, is that what I am, or is this what I am, and he always gets the answer, no, that is not how you are, look more, or be more inside.

About what king of god are we talking here?

No, God stands for love, God stands for love and our selves, for us. Even when you look it up in the bible you read that God made Adam after His own image. So what does this mean? It means: We are of God.

Of course many religions say to us that we are not of God. That God is outside of us and that we are actually sinful. That we are bad and that we have to purify blah-blah. I really don’t believe in this. I really love the teaching of Rumi. I will not call this Sufi or anything but the understanding that we are it. This is it. You are God, I am God, and there is even God beyond us, because we can’t say: This is all there is – as we don’t really know anything. But it makes much more sense to me that we are of the same fabric as God. And not that we are bad and this und that.
The path of love, the doctrine of love, and that is where we got to the next chapter of the performance, and there the motto is: See with the eye of the heart, see from your heart. And behind the last piece stands the idea of: When I love all that is, then I see my greatness, then I see who I am.
Is the Divinity theme part of your Dance concept?

I call my dance Contemporary Mystical Persian Dance. But I’m not following any specific religion. Everybody shall come in touch with their own greatness, their own divinity. So my aim in dancing is to invite everyone to see that inside themselves. That we are made of God. Whatever you want to call this source, we are it. It is not outside, it is not something to look for outside. We create our lives. There is nothing like destiny and so on.

So there is also nothing like soul or paradise?

Paradise? I don’t know of.

What music influenced you?

I started with Flamenco. I was a Flamenco dancer. Before I did Persian dance I was a Flamenco dancer and I performed it the classical style. After that I wanted to express more of who I am, because I’m not entirely Flamenco. So I tried Tai Chi and Martial Arts, and in the middle I found Persian dance and I found it only through the music but not through any dance teacher. And from that point I reached the Dervish movement. That one did it almost by itself. It kind of just arrived, and after that I was with the Dervishes and danced with them for a long time.

Is this similar to Sufi?

I’d rather call it Dervish. Because both expressions have different meanings. So I would prefer to call it Dervish. When you in the west talk about Sufi you mean something different, you mean it as another expression for mysticism in general. But Sufi is a particular path, a very Islamic thing.  Sufi is more Rumi, it’s older than Islam. It’s a tradition that you can find everywhere in the world and it stands for: Know thyself and know that you are God. This tradition is very old, it’s esoteric.

The heart is the Divinity in us
After seeing Banafsheh Sayyad perform at the Orientale 2009 in Düsseldorf, Germany I was more than curious about meeting this world famous and mysterious dancer from the Iran (nowadays USA) in person. And I met a sophisticated and liberated (in every sense of this word) woman who gave me the opportunity to open my eyes to different directions.

Banafsheh Sayyad performs again this year at Orientale, Düsseldorf, Germany. Don’t miss her.
I repeat: Don’t miss her!

What did we see tonight?

The theme of the show was: How can we hear with the heart, as the heart is the seat of the divine. Or how can we live more from the heart? The show started with “The Void”, the formless, and then it went into “What Is the Heart”? Is it divine, is it human? We heard from Rumi the word: “The heart doesn’t even belong to us. It is divine.” The heart is the divinity in us.