Baba Karam Dance

October 16, 2019

backstage at the Austin Belly Dance Convention Gala Show 2019
Hannah backstage at the Austin Belly Dance Convention gala performance 2019

This, perhaps, requires some explanation. Baba Karam, or Jaheli dance, is a popular Iranian character dance portraying a low-class urban tough guy. Members of this subculture have been known to frequent cafes, gamble, drink alcohol, and fall in love with “disreputable women” (i.e. entertainers). Despite being rough around the edges, they adhere to a strict code of honor and altruism.

The dance is an endearingly playful display of machismo. The fedora and typical slacks and button-up shirt is a modern adaptation, as the character has been around in early films and literature going back to the Qajar era, with cultural roots that go back even further. The jahelis are associated with the zurkhāneh, or “house of strength”, a uniquely Iranian gym for men that combines athletic training with spiritual principles to cultivate both inner and outer strength, humility, and chivalry.

If you want to learn more about Jaheli dance, the dancer Lida wrote a nice article on her blog here:

As for me, I grew up in the theater and have a special fondness for “man dances”. Had a lot of fun with this!🕺🏻

Thank you, Austin Belly Dance convention 2019, for being such a warm and welcoming audience! ❤️

Would you like to learn Baba Karam dance? Book a private lesson with Hannah! Hannah teaches in San Rafael CA and online.