Rumi Alive

Persian Mysticism in Dance, Music and Art

8.-11.11.2007, Prague

During November 8.-11., the Prague based NNO Open field organized a four-day international festival celebrating the 800. years anniversary of the Persian mystic, poet and philosopher Jalaluddin Balkhi Rumi, known as Mawlana. The festival was held in accordance with the UNESCO declaration of 2007 as the Internationl Year of Mawlana.

The Rumi Alive Festival, like Rumi's own work, expressed many colours and levels and provided a broad spectrum of information and experiences for both academic scholars and the general public. The aim of the Festival was not only to celebrate Rumi´s creative genius, but also to explore Rumi´s influence on contemporary artists.

Patron of the Rumi Alive Festival: Prof. PhDr.ThDr. Thomas Halik.

More information about actions:

Concert and dance performance: Rumi Alive

Documentary: Rumi returns


  • Creative calligraphy
  • Dance workshops
  • Sufi dance ritual

Open discussion: Rumi Forum


  • HAVE A LOOK into Jalalludin Balkhi Rumi wisdom with Rumi workshop - write a key word, for example "joy", into the search field and find out what Rumi says about the topic (Tolerance95).

  • Festival partners
  • Interviews with performers


  • B & Austrian friends: "It was a great pleasure and honour for me and my friends to participate in very special event. I was there with 9 more friends from all Austria and we enjoyed each day. The film was impressive though some of my friends couldn't understand everything because of the English language. We can hardly wait for the DVD to come out. Personally I found the forum on Friday very interesting. It was great to learn more about RUMI's live, the history and the importance of his work. Some of my friends and me attended the calligraphy workshop on Saturday. We had a relaxed - because of the German language - and challenging course there and enjoyed the wonderful place at the same time. One of the highlights was the performance in the evening. My two friends who are dancing teachers as well - and joined the dance workshop on Sunday morning - were enthusiastic of the beauty and expressiveness of the dances and the fine music....To participate in the final ritual Sunday evening was a must then for us. It was not only a great pleasure to dance there but we could consolidate our friendship once more at the same time. We want to thank all those numerous people who worked so hard and successfully for the festival. But first place we say thank you to Rena who even invited us to her place and spent some of her valuable time with us. Returning home on Monday we we felt enriched and happy having been so lucky to experience such a special event in Prague.

All contents © copyright 2008 Openfield o.s. All rights reserved.

About persian music with Reza Derakshani

Reza's joy in playing Persian Classical music has to do with its improvisational nature. "Its never the same. It leaves the doors open," he says, "Every time I play, I am surprised and wonder about what comes out of me." He also loves the melody and emotional power in the music. "Its not about logic," says Reza. Reza's study of Persian music has always been intertwined with Persian poetry. "The only way to learn the musical pieces is through the poetry – to memorize the melody you have to know Rumi and Hafiz. Once you enter that world there is no distance. The poetry becomes part of your life."

As a student, Reza recalls talking on the phone with his friends late into the night and speaking only poetry, just bouncing back lines to one another. "We would go on for hours. There is no end to the poetry," he says, "Every time you open the book – there's a new piece!" While Rumi is one of the most well known Persian poets outside of Iran, Reza emphasizes that there are many other powerful mystical poets. "Hafiz is like God in Iran" he says, "And there's also Attar and others. They are not only poets, but philosophers. They become like your masters – they create a frame for your mind."

Recently, Reza has been drawn to the work of Omar Khayyam, a poet, philosopher, and mathematician, dating back to times long before Rumi and Hafiz. "My way of thinking about life has very much to do with him," says Reza. What he appreciates about Omar Khiam is that he doesn't make any religious references. "Religious people don't like him very much," says Reza laughing, "Instead it's about enjoying the moment and forgetting the past and the future." As a musician and performer, Reza never likes to impose a message on his audience. "When I play I am transported with my music and I hope my audience is too." he says. "It just feels good to take them to another place. But it's not something that you can try to do. It either happens or doesn't happen. The doors are open."

About dance with Sashar Zarif

For Sashar, dance is the closest language to the body and heart – the most honest form of expression. "The body can show you what it is saying and feeling more immediately than words," says Sashar. Sashar needed this language during his teenage years when he was separated from his family, living in refugee camps, and moving from country to country. "Dance helped me to adjust to displacement" says Sashar, "Dance enables me to make a place out of the space I am in."

Sashar's passion for dance can be traced back to his relationship with his grandmother, , who was a displaced woman from who immigrated to Tehran after the revolution. Feeling cut-off from her native land and peoples, Sashar's grandmother yearned to recreate "home" in her living room and Sashar played her assistant. She was a great storyteller, singer, and dancer, but in her eighties, she was mostly confined to her chair. Sashar remembers his grandmother taking up her hand drum, singing and talking to show Sashar what "home" meant and what it looked like. Then putting down her hand drum she would dance with her arms and hands. "Now, Sashar," she would say taking up her hand drum again, "You can be my legs." Since he was five years old, Sashar has been dancing his grandmother's spirit.

Yet dance did not become Sashar's professional focus until later in his career. Sashar began as Bio-Medical Engineer studying Ergomomics which explores the relationship between machine and body. Sashar laughs at the irony of being an engineer turned dancer, and says, "I've changed a lot of things in my life, but the only thing that hasn't moved is dance." Sashar's initial instruction in dance came in Azerbaijan in a formal dance class. Later, while living in India, he studied Bharata Natyam. He has since gone on to study Flamenco, modern dance, and ballet. "I like all of them," he says, "as long as you don't control them".

When he performs, Sashar aims to bring his vulnerability onto the stage so that people can see it. "If you are up there too polished then the audience is left feeling envious. But if you are vulnerable, the audience can relate to you." Sashar, however, sees something crucial missing in dance. "Dance is only a tool", says Sashar, "Dance is not the center or the end in itself. Dance is a way to discover yourself and to feel joy." Through dance, Sashar lets out both his good side and his bad side, so he can pass a point beyond each. And this is where Rumi comes into Sashar's dance. "Rumi is all about passion for me", says Sashar, "And passion is not always positive. There is a dark passion too. That's why vulnerability is important because you can feel what you feel. You can jump up in one moment and then in the next moment you can melt down."

When teaching and choreographing, Sashar doesn't create the dance for the audience, but for the dancer. "I don't think, 'oh, how do I look?', but try to state where I am in a way that's real enough so that people can enter in." For Sashar, dance means dropping all boundaries.

2023 Open Field, z.s.| Všechna práva vyhrazena.
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