Creating living steps out of ancient traces

Sashar Zarif
Saturday, September 24, 2016 - 08:30 to Sunday, September 25, 2016 - 17:30
held at: 
Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work Wilfrid Laurier University 120 Duke Street West Kitchener, Ontario N2H 3W8


For pictorial sketch of Sasahar's living steps, click here.

I see life as an experience, and the meaning of life as the reality of that experience. In other words, the more mindful the experience, the more meaningful life will be. The creative process is a way to bring more mindfulness to our experiences and to our lives. In my own life, I have experienced revolution, war, imprisonment, torture, flight, refugee camps, and migration. I also come from a history of inherited migration through my grandparents. I am a new Canadian, born into an immigrant Azerbaijani family in Iran with strong Central Asian roots. My identity is not the product but the process of an ongoing constructive negotiation of my relationship between the cultures, languages, and experiences I carry with me. I see the creative process, too, as a journey, and the performance as the arrival, visit, and departure to the next journey. The more mindful the journey and creative process, the more meaningful the arrival, visit, and departure. In my journey, I have struggled with the notion of displacement and with finding a place to belong. I have questions the idea of home and wondered if external exile is the result of internal disfunction. I developed an inquisitive approach to life that in turn gave birth to a process of movement (body), story (mind), sound (emotion) that I call Moving Memories and a performance framework called Dance of Mugham, where the past and present move side by side towards the future. In this paper I descirbe this journey--and the nomadic home it allowed me to find.

With 20 years of professional dance experience in over 29 countries around the globe, researching, educating, creating, performing, and producing dance, Iranian-Canadian Sashar Zarif has extensive experience in practice in academic, community, and rural environments. Among many other fields (Zarif has studied various forms of dance and music including Uzbek, Tadjeek, Persian, Georgian, Chechen, Afghan, Middle Eastern, Flamenco, Bharatanatyam and Lezginka), he specializes in the field of Sufi and Shamanic dance rituals of Near and Central Asia. His accomplishments in this field have brought him opportunities such as his collaborative project/performance with internationally renowned singer Alim Qasimov from Azerbaijan and Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali, the prodigious nephews of legendary qawwali master, Nusret Fateh Ali Khan. His research interests are identity, memory, globalization, and cross-cultural collaborations. His artistic practice invites a convergence of creative and cultural perspectives. His teaching practice is steeped in the artistry and history of traditional, ritualistic, and contemporary dance and music of the Near Eastern and Central Asian regions and Islamic communities. For over twenty years Zarif has worked tirelessly to maintain the integrity of these fine arts by operating within three interdependent faculties of research, creation and education.

Sashar Zarif is a recipient of the 2006 Toronto International Dance Festival's Paula Citron Award and was awarded a Chalmers fellowship grant from the Ontario Arts Council in 2010. He was named the 2008 recipient of the Skills for Change New Pioneer Award for the Arts and named an Artistic Ambassador for Multiculturalism and Diversity. In 2011, he received the honorary titles of Master of Dance from Uzbekistan State Institute of Choreography in Tashkent as well as Honorary Faculty Member at this institute for his work and contribution to dance in Uzbekistan in the second half of 2011. In 2012, Sashar Zarif was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.