Go Deeper

Jumpstart Profiles: Meet Sahar Javedani

Posted May 14th, 2012

The mysteries of sand. Photo by ShaLeigh Comerford.

This spring (May 31–June 2), at the Live Arts Studio, we are launching our new performing arts program, Jumpstart, which showcases the work of six emerging artists based in the region. Choreographer and dancer Sahar Javedani left Iran with her family when she was a young child, and grew up in San Diego. Sahar recently moved to Philadelphia after seven years as a New York City-based choreographer, teacher, and arts administrator. At Jumpstart she will perform her solo work in the Middle, somewhat aggravated, which explores Sahar’s lifelong investigation of her Iranian heritage, both “the values that I embrace and those I’ve left behind coupled with the challenge of allegiance between these two cultures.” We caught up with the Sahar and asked her some questions about her life and work.

Live Arts: Why is your show title in the Middle, somewhat aggravated? What inspired the initial creation of this work?

Sahar Javedani: in the Middle, somewhat aggravated is definitely a play on the title of a work that William Forsythe created [In the middle, somewhat elevated] and describes my fascination and frustration with being raised between two cultures—Iran and America. The work examines my physical and emotional territories of allegiance—the values I uphold and those I’ve left behind. I believe the idea for this solo began brewing during my graduate work at CalArts [learn about her time at CalArts here] and there were several incarnations of this in the last decade.

LA: What was it like to grow up in Tehran and San Diego?

SJ: I was raised predominantly in San Diego; my family left Iran just before the revolution and the few memories that I have of Tehran are the scents of my grandparents’ rose garden, the lush feel of the Persian carpets beneath my bare feet, and the taste of orange blossom jam. It was wonderful being raised in North County San Diego where the floral and surfboard industry was so abundant and proximity to the beach and parks was fantastic.

LA: How did you become interested in dance and choreography? 

SJ: I’m convinced I was a choreographer before ever being a dancer. I still struggle with the idea of taking technique classes. When I close my eyes and listen to a piece of music, I see the entire production before my eyes—costume, lighting, sets. I am the daughter of an architect and set designer and grew up either performing theater or daydreaming in the catwalks of dark theaters during tech rehearsals.

Playing with light. Photo by ShaLeigh Comerford

LA: A lot of your work investigates your Iranian heritage as well as being someone of two cultures (American and Iranian). Why is movement such a good vehicle to investigate this?

SJ: A wonderful mentor of mine during my undergraduate studies at Hollins University, Donna Faye Burchfield, pulled me aside after seeing me perform a lead role in a Shakespeare performance my freshman year and encouraged me to study modern dance. To this day, I’m not certain what spark she saw in me, but ever since I began narrating my body stories through movement returning to speaking on stage hasn’t had that same kinesthetic charge. Coming from a culture where, traditionally speaking, women are more or less silent in their actions, I’ve inherited the mode of communication through dance with ease and developed an extensive battery of armor of gestural motifs.

LA: in the Middle, somewhat aggravated is a solo work How do your group work and solo work differ?

SJ: My group work is vastly different than my solo work. In my group work, I strive to be inclusive of my audiences—predominantly vibrant family friendly work with lots of costumes and props—it satisfies the aesthetic I developed as a child working in musical theater and my love of world music. My solo work is decidedly more political and sarcastic. It is, more often than not, structured improvisation and I experience a confluence of aggression and peace on stage.

LA: Why did you move to Philadelphia and how do you find it so far?

This dance studio is definitely in New York (as it is not one of the only 3 decent ones in Philly!). Photo by John Hennessy.

SJ: I moved to Philadelphia, after seven years in New York City, to join my new husband who is in Neurology residency and it’s been incredibly rewarding both professionally and artistically thus far. I couldn’t be happier working in higher ed again and while I am still committed to supporting friends’ works in what Mayor Nutter calls “the suburb to the North,” I am proud to call Philadelphia my new home, and love exploring Travel & Leisure‘s No. 1 City for Culture!

JUMPSTART, Live Arts Studio, 919 North 5th Street (at Poplar), Philadelphia, PA, 19123.
Thursday May 31, at 7pm
Friday June 1, at 7pm
Saturday, June 2, at 7pm
$18 for adults, $12 for students and buyers 25-and-under.
Free onsite parking.

You can read more about Sahar in this interview with Culturebot.