Sashar Zarif is an award winning multi-disciplinary performing artiste, educator and researcher. The down-to-earth creative personality is committed to maintain the integrity of performing arts to facilitate a journey of self-discovery as a way of understanding his perception of reality. In fulfilling this objective, he aims to infuse dance with other essential pillars of art -- music, poetry, calligraphy, storytelling, and rituals.
“My practice resembles a tree whose roots reach deep into the soil. I believe, the deeper the roots are, the sweeter are the fruits it bears,” says Sashar Zarif.
His dance troupe, Sashar Zarif Dance Theatre, is an internationally renowned Toronto-based dance theatre organisation, working actively since its foundation in 1994. Through extensive touring across the world, including USA, Europe, North Africa, Central and Western Asia, and the Middle East, Zarif has spent his professional life promoting cultural dialogue through intensive fieldworks, residencies, performances, and creative collaborations.
His researches revolve around issues related to identity, memory, globalisation, and cross-cultural collaborations. His teaching practice is steeped in the history of traditional, ritual-based, and contemporary dance, along with music of the Near Eastern and Central Asian regions.
An exciting and challenging component of the recently concluded Ocean Dance Festival 2019 was a 15-day Choreolab residency by this Canadian-Iranian dancer. The outcome of the residency was truly magical and mesmeric, as the audience watched the gala presentation of the Choreolab on the opening night of the festival, live on stage. Based on his practice of ‘Dance of Mugham’, performed on the folk musical composition from Azerbaijan, Sashar Zarif aesthetically choreographed the piece. 19 dancers from Bangladesh, India and Hong Kong performed the routine, unleashing multicultural exchanges. Incorporating Bengali poems, songs, folktales and popular rhymes in the production, the light, dancers’ movements and their spontaneous performance captivated all.
“To choreograph an artistic piece where multi-national and multi-cultural artistes collaborate, is challenging and exciting at the same time. Creating a bond and finding a parallel reality between your experience and the experience of every individual in the group helps create harmony,” says Zarif. “This way, one can find a place in each participant’s heart.”
Sashar Zarif also conducted an outdoor session of ‘Dance Conversation’ on the following day of the festival. Moderated by Indian dancer Priyanka Basu, the session featured Srabasti Ghosh as a panel discussant. Prominent dancers Lubna Marium and Dr Urmimala Sarkar also attended the session, among others.
“Using treasured memories while constructing art helps an artiste connect to not only his fellow performers, but also the audience. For instance, the childhood memories of lullabies can easily form a bond between cultures. That is what I seek as an artiste,” concludes Zarif.