ODC's Next Dance and Diaspora Features Farima Berenji and Shahrzad Khorsandi, 2/1

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ODC is pleased to announce the program for the next installment of Dance and Diaspora, its biannual showcase celebrating the world of dance within the Bay Area. Next month's double bill runs Saturday to Sunday, February 1 - 2, 2014, and features work by Persian dance artists Farima Berenji and Shahrzad Khorsandi. Next month ODC offers audiences a window into the breadth of Persian dance, from classical to contemporary. Berenji and Khorsandi, last seen at ODC in the world premiere of Rosanna Gamson/World Wide's Layla Means Night, will each perform two works, incorporating live music and poetry. Berenji is an Iranian-born scholar and an award-winning, internationally acclaimed performing artist, instructor, dance ethnologist and archaeologist. "Poetry in Motion", the name Berenji has given to her own dance style, is an improvisational dance form that draws on Persian classical poetry and sacred teachings from Iran and Central Asia. ForDance and Diaspora Berenji will premiere two solos. The first piece titled The Persian Garden is inspired by Persian miniature art and adheres to classical Persian dance traditions. In the following solo, Dance of the Soul, Berenji performs a work exploring the conventions of mystical Sufi movement. Berenji will be accompanied by Persian musiciansSamandar Dehghani and Saman Mahmoudi.

Khorsandi founded the self-named Shahrzad Dance Company in Berkeley, CA in 1996. Blending elements of contemporary dance with the refined aesthetics of ancient Persia, Khorsandi has created her own style of dance which she calls "Contemporary Persian Ballet". The first piece Khorsandi will perform, Transcendence (2009), is set to a live score composed by Mahmoud Zoufonoun with recited poetry by Omar Khayyam. Accompanying Khorsandi are dancers Jennifer Shindelus and Marta Serra. The second piece of Khorsandi's program is a premiere, currently untitled.

In anticipation of next month's Dance and Diaspora, ODC will sponsor an open class with Berenji and Khorsandi as part of its Studio to Stage program. Two 45-minute beginner-friendly sets, one led by each artist, will take place on February 17, 2014 from 6:30 - 8:30pm in ODC Theater. Tickets are $28 and include the price of admission to Dance and Diaspora. Students may either pre-register at odcdance.org/buytickets.phpor sign up at the door. Dance and Diaspora is made possible with generous funding from The James Irvine Foundation and The San Francisco Foundation.

About FARIMA BERENJI Farima Berenji is an Iranian-born scholar and an award winning, internationally acclaimed performing artist, instructor, dance ethnologist and archaeologist. She holds a B.S. in Health Science with a Minor in Art History and Performing Arts, as well as an M.A. in Anthropology and Archeology with special emphasis in Persian Studies. She has performed, researched and documented Persian nomadic cultures, dance, rituals, mythology, and poetry, as well as excavations of Persian and Near Eastern archeology, concentrating on preservation of ancient and mystical Persian dance. She is the recipient of awards from the United Nations, the Turkish Ministry of Culture, San Jose State University and Cal State Hayward, among others. Berenji travels worldwide to perform, teach, and to inspire dynamic creativity and rejuvenation through dance and music. She seeks to lead people to the historic beauty and richness of Persian culture and to aid them find inner bliss through dance, music, and poetry. For more information, visitfarimadance.com.

About SHAHRZAD KHORSANDI Shahrzad Khorsandi studied Dance and Performance Art at California Institute of the Arts, has a BA in Dance, and an MA in Creative Arts from San Francisco State University. Her specialty is classical and contemporary Persian ballet, but her dance training includes Modern, Jazz, Ballet, West African, Afro-Haitian, among various other world dances. Khorsandi has been faculty at Solano College, St. Mary's College, Diablo Valley College and Contra Costa College, and is the founder and artistic director of Shahrzad Dance Company, based in Berkeley, CA. Khorsandi joins elements of contemporary dance with the refined, poetically potent aesthetics of ancient Persia to create her own unique style of dance which she identifies as Contemporary Persian Ballet. For more information, visitdancepersian.org.

About ODC THEATER ODC Theater exists to empower and develop innovative artists. It participates in the creation of new works through commissioning, presenting, mentorship and space access; it develops informed, engaged and committed audiences; and advocates for the performing arts as an essential component to the economic and cultural development of our community. The Theater is the site of over 120 performances a year involving nearly 1,000 local, regional, national and international artists. Since 1976, ODC Theater has been the mobilizing force behind countless San Francisco artists and the foothold for national and international touring artists seeking debut in the Bay Area. The Theater, founded by Brenda Way, then under the leadership of Rob Bailis for nearly a decade, and currently under the direction of Christy Bolingbroke, has earned its place as a cultural incubator by dedicating itself to creative change-makers, those leaders who give our region its unmistakable definition and flare. Nationally known artists Spaulding Gray, Diamanda Galas, Molissa Fenley, Bill T. Jones, Eiko & Koma, Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE, Ban Rarra and Karole Armitage are among those whose first San Francisco appearance occurred at ODC Theater.
ODC Theater is part of a two-building creative campus dedicated to supporting every stage of the artistic lifecycle -- conceptualization, creation, and performance. This includes a flagship company -- ODC/Dance -- and a School, in partnership with Rhythm and Motion Dance Workout in San Francisco's Mission District. For more information about ODC Theater and all its programs visit odcdance.org.

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