What is Persian Dance

November 16, 2017

Sometimes referred to as classical, traditional, or art dance, Persian professional dance for the stage is, like all art, an evolving form, blending the aesthetics of social dance and professional entertainers from times past with ballet and contemporary stagecraft.

Persian or Iranian traditional dance is a subtle and elegant art form emphasizing delicate hand flourishes and intricate movements of the arms and upper torso. Often coy in demeanor, the dancer’s skill lies in improvisation and the expression of a range of emotions including yearning, shyness, and rapture. 

With ancient ties to Zoroastrian and Sufi symbology, Persian art dance shares metaphysical roots with the spiritually-infused traditions of traditional Persian music and poetry and can have a deeply devotional quality.

The dancer as an idealized embodiment of ethereal beauty conveys the emotional sentiments of the music and poetry, which speak to themes of longing and surrender, and the intoxication of sacred union with the Beloved.


Persian classical dance takes inspiration from other forms of Persian art, including miniature paintings, calligraphy, music, poetry, and architecture, as well as regional folk dances.  Unlike ballet and classical Indian dance, Persian dance is not codified with a set structure and vocabulary. The highly stylized gestures may convey esoteric meaning, but are interpretive and not structured like the storytelling of Indian mudras and asanas. Every dancer expresses the tonality and mood of the music uniquely while staying within the frame and aesthetics of what can be recognized as Persian. In contrast to Arabic dance with its earthly emphasis on hip articulations, Persian dance is more delicate and features the face, hands, and arms most prominently. The professional dancer’s vocabulary may also include back-bends, floating and gliding movements, as well as complex turn sequences and whirling.

Hannah performs Persian dance for weddings, poetry readings, Nouruz, Yalda, and other celebrations highlighting Persian culture.

Hannah Romanowsky is a San Francisco-based performing artist and teacher specializing in womenโ€™s dances from the Middle East and Central Asia. She has over 30 years of experience in the dance arts, and is devoted to sharing the joy, beauty and embodied wisdom of traditional dance through performances, workshops, and retreats.

Ms. Romanowsky is the Founder of the DanceVersity multicultural youth arts education program and the Scheherazade School of Dance & Sacred Movement. She was a principal artist with Aywah! Ethnic Dance Company, Ballet Afsaneh, and Wan-Chao Dance, and has been a guest artist at universities, museums, and festivals throughout Asia, Europe, and North America.

Hannah was trained in Persian dance by Usted Sharlyn Sawyer, director of the esteemed Ballet Afsaneh, and is a popular instructor and performing artist among the Iranian community of northern California.



โ€œMy husband & I were enchanted by Hannahโ€™s dancing. Her movement is graceful and fluid; her every muscle is in the dance. Exquisite. She is also a beautiful woman with a smile that radiates delight – a sheer joy to watch.โ€ -Donna G & Brad VE, Oakland, CA