Storytelling and drama seem like important parts of your work. Do you see yourself more as a choreographer or an actor?
Afshin Ghaffarian: In many theatrical tradition all over the world and specially in the eastern culture, There is no difference between theatre and dance, actor and dancer. but in the western culture and specially in modern era it’s in contrary. Theatre and dance are often splited up. They don’t have the same history, nor the same places and not even the same public. Eugenio Barba explain in his famous book “The Secret art of The Performer ” that in many cultures we use even one word to talk about dancers and actors. I let my audience to call me whatever they like. I’m just a “doer” ! .
Many say dance is a universal language and creates cross-cultural understanding. Did you experienced that especially after your immigration to France?
Afshin Ghaffarian: Yes, it can be a universal language as art in general can be a universal language. But some time we see that we are very far from this universal language. often when we talk about this universal cross-cultural understanding, we can notice that it doesn’t really help our understanding from the other cultures or to broaden our views on the other cultures and on the other experiences, but it just fonction to fulfill our desire, our imagination from an exotic culture, from a faraway land. in this way, an Indian should represent what the collective imagination in the west expect from him/her as an Indian, an Iranian in the west should always represent the fantasy of The Persia, and if she/he doesn’t respond to this untold expectation, she/he might be excluded from the mainstream, from the invisible official market, simply because of his/her lack of authenticity. this is of coure true when you are born or you come from the countries where we call the East or oriental countries to the countries which we call the West.
After that, there is also the question of “category” which is very present in the western culture I think, at least in France as I can observe. some unwritten laws exist which confine our comprehension from an artistic expression in a predefined format. for example in the case of theatre and dance as I told you before, they are two different and separated category in France. you have to identify yourself and your work only in one category which is intellectually known and rationalized before. if not you work is considered as marginal or alternative in other word “not serious”. Today in France, I continue also to defend my work as dance because many people doesn’t recognize what I do as dance, because it doesn’t respond neither to the usual schematic categorization of dance and nor theatre.
Do you believe in dance as a vehicle for making political statements?
Afshin Ghaffarian: It depends of what we hear from political. political in the sens of the political party, No, but political in the sens of the life itself, Yes.
I don’t belong to that so called “opposition” outside of Iran or any Green, White, Red section and what I do, should not be used for making a political statement against a “regime”, in my case the “Islamic Republic of Iran” which is certainly not a flawless system but I recognize it as the legitimate political entity of Iran. I’m beside every pacific-democratic social movements in the world including Iran. In a larger contexte and with a deeper view, the time when you try to deconstruct the categories or some prejudice and common perceptions in any society around the world by proposing the new ideas and a new way of looking into the world, you are doing a political action, even if you are not aware of it. but this political action can not be reduced to a political position. in the sens of the life, everything is political; the way we talk, the way we behave, the way we consume,and etc.. they are all political no matter in witch country we live.
How you see your dancing style different than those around you? Do you believe years of self-teaching and fighting for your passion in Iran, has formed you differently?
Afshin Ghaffarian: I have to insist again that I am still fighting for my passion even in France however the contexte is different. my experience can not be reduced to one geographical latitude which is Iran in this case. I continue in France what I’ve started in Iran and even my experience in Iran was not separated from the outside world. I remember as students of theatre at the Azad University, faculty of Honâr va Memaâri in Tehran, me and my friends were interested and were inspired by the Grotowski’s experience in theatre in Poland, Antonin Artaud in France, Julien beck in U.S.A, Eugenio Barba in Denmark, Tadashi Suzuki in Japan and etc… All this to tell you that in Iran our experience was linked to other’s experience around the world although they were also marginal in their own society and from the mainstream theatre “category” in their time.
We like to know more about your current project. What are you working on at the moment?
Afshin Ghaffarian: I finished my new performance based on a novel called “Too Loud a Solitude” written by Bhumil Hrabal the czech writer. I also published a book recently in French with my friend sociologist Baptiste Pizzinat, the title of this book is ” Café des Réformances “. and at the moment I’m working on an article about my career and my experience in Iran as well as in France which will be published in a French magazine “6Mois” in september.
How much are you involved in the production of Desert Dancer? What has been the main challenge in production of the film?
Afshin Ghaffarian: This is exactly the other things which I’m doing these days and I must say that it takes me a lot of energy. it’s important to know the fact that although this film is inspired by a true story which is obviously a part of my life but my today’s true story of life is not based on this film. I can not reduce my whole life and my whole experience to this film. the film is not a documentary of my life but it is a fictional film and like other fictional film there are some fictional scene in order to create some dramatic effect. This film (like any other film or any other form of dram in general) in order to its dramatic construction creates some dramatic tensions, and some dramatic actions resulting in some dramatic effects but this dramatic approach doesn’t necessarily represent the whole reality of my life and my experience as it doesn’t represent the whole reality of Iran. our living experiences has nothing to do with a dramatical aspect. It is more complex and therefor more dynamic. The reality in Iran as every where in the world is always more sophisticated than what we think and what we see in the medias. It is the same thing about dance in Iran, The reality of dancing in Iran is much less dramatic of what the film depict in a simple way.
Afshin Ghaffarian: I want to clarify the fact that I have also another reading of my own story today, I don’t think and I don’t see the world including Iran in the same way as 5 years ago, it doesn’t mean that I’ve changed completely and henceforth I ignore the problems in Iran but I just read my own story with a new vision and in a different way. I’ve passed 5 years by studying more and structuring my knowledge, learning more about the problems in the world and the problems within Iran. This process of 5 years ( which some times is neglected by the media ) enabled me to broaden my view of the world including the issues in Iran. certainly if you asked me the same question 5 years ago, I would answer you in a different way based on my knowledge in that moment. It’s the same thing about dance in Iran. maybe it’s little confusing for you and for the others, when I tell you today that I think Dance is not really forbidden in Iran, although I was telling the contrary 5 years ago. but today as I study more this issue, I see the complexity of this problem and that’s why I keep saying today Dance is not really forbidden ( as I explain in an article in Farsi here ), because I’m persuaded that we can find a solution for this controversial category which is the notion of dance in Iran and I try to introduce and open a new debate about dance issue in Iran to contribute to a new comprehension of the contemporary dance within the Iranian society . The Iranian laws should be more precise in order to introduce contemporary dance as an art form… and when it is is introduced as a category and begins to be a rigid “category”, I will be the first one to critic this category, as I do now in France. This critical approach in our opinions can make a progress and can help us to move forward to a better future in the world, and at the same time with this critical approach I try to contribute to a better understanding of the complexity of Iran in Europe and in the european point of view…