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The young Iranian artist Sorour Darabi left a deep impression last year with Farci.e, a performance about the fluidity of identity and suffocating gender constraints. His latest creation, Savušun سووشوون (Mourning the death of Siyâvash), weaves together the Shiite mourning ceremonies of the month of Muharram with a more personal story about mourning, fear and pain. Between genuine and symbolic suffering, Darabi shows how complex and contradictory these emotions can be and how their experience is dominated by fossilized norms and values. With gestures that are equally elegant and grotesque, s.he reassesses the pain and fear with which minorities struggle, turning them into a manifest force. Like an ode to vulnerability, Savušun ranges from consolation to discomfort, from tenderness to cruelty, from toxic masculinity to hybrid identity.
Conception, choreography and performance: Sorour Darabi
Light design: Yannick Fouassier, Jean-Marc Ségalen
Dramaturgy: Pauline Le Boulba
Outside eyes: Céline Cartillier, Mathieu Bouvier
Sound design: Clément Bernerd
Administration: Charlotte Giteau
Touring: Sandrine Barrasso
Surtitling: Marie Trincaretto
Presentation: Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Charleroi danse
Coproduction: Montpellier Danse 2018 / Agora cité internationale de la danse, with the support of the Fondation BNP Paribas; CND Centre national de la danse; La Villette; La Maison CDCN Uzès Gard Occitanie with the support of La Fée Nadou; Zürcher Theater Spektakel; ICI - Centre chorégraphique national Montpellier / Occitanie; Sophiensaele; Fonds Transfabrik - Fonds franco-allemand
With the support of: SPEDIDAM, Ballet du Nord
Thanks to: Pouya Ehsaei, Florian De Sépibus, Agnieszka Ryszkiewicz, Ali Moini, Bryan Campbell, Dd Dorvillier, Hossein Fakhri, Kamnoush Khosrovani, Maria Rössler, Tirdad Hashemi
Savušun or what cannot be seen
Sorour (or Pétrole) is an apparition. Arriving on stage in the shadowy light with a cape, a repetitive sound made in time with our breathing, a cape that allows glimpses of a bare chest, a cape that then becomes a bed, a world. And it’s possible to make out a belt of candles looking like a kind of grenade belt.
The first time I met them was perhaps two or three years ago in the 18th arrondissement in Paris when we were both waiting for an invitation to a queer festival. Later, I met them on stage in the middle of a striptease, a lascivious, sulphurous dance to a mythical song by Umm Kulthum. Our destinies quickly became intertwined.
I was already intrigued by their great presence. And especially by their big eyes. You initially enter Sorour’s universe through their eyes. Eyes that were never off the screen in the film Out of the Blue which I kind of wrote while thinking about them. So Sorour appears on stage like an apparition. A daydreamer. You enter Sorour Darabi’s universe through their eyes. Giving off great strength and destabilising vulnerability, there is always something going on. A children’s song in Persian that moves through time, languages, genres and spaces. Sorour moves through time, genres and spaces. Sorour is an apparition, like a star. S/he is omnipresent in our emotions and offers the world a kind of self-denial from the rest. The beauty of the gesture and the rest. Moving forward in the dark with a thought of love to confront the external chaos.
A Persian song that becomes silence with a wide-open mouth. A form of tireless cry, a cry of living, of pain, a way of opening up the piece to a howl of something close to welcome. Pleasure in pain, a refreshing dance and loss of the power of speech. It is precisely at that moment that the language of dance takes over and opens silent and secret doors.
“She said something in another language. I saw a goddess, not a hero, a goddess, not a hero in her movements…” *
Inspired by Iranian rituals, “Savušun” means “grieving for the death of Siavash” and Sorour takes over these pagan rituals of mourning to deconstruct a history of death, of silence, of darkness as an entry to a supernatural, poetic and tragic world. There is nothing to see, just to feel. There is nothing to cry over, just to feel. Silence. The presence of an ancient prince.
S/he appears on stage in complete darkness, dressed in a plain black leotard. No sequins, nothing camp, no colour (apart from a very beautiful rose on the nails), a disconcerting plain black. This piece, Savušun, is as much about reverence and homage as it is an acknowledgement of the lack of gestures of affection and despair in Iranian culture. A song by Lana del Rey then comes out of the nothingness: Young And Beautiful.
“Perhaps I’ve looked for a family in your gestures. Something familiar to embark on as a quest for the self, growing up too to be a tree growing somewhere else. Surely not here, on this land. ” *
The crazy days, city lights
The way you’d play with me like a child
Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful? **
With choked back cries, Savušun makes you think of a funeral procession towards a timeless body, a-gendered, ageless, beyond a simple queer who has been “marketed”, whitened and overused to all too simply illustrate the complexity of genders and sexualities. Sorour Darabi is still there and there is something very gentle, understated and profound in their gestures and presence on stage. There’s a search for accuracy too. There is tension between the time s/he spends on stage to make us experience emotions with dazzling vulnerability. Vulnerability with Sorour forms the basis of their work; s/he shares a spacetime with the audience that allows them to always go beyond what is expected of them, from their stories and mythical narrations all the way to nostalgic songs reminiscent of the great Googoosh.
“There is great sadness in your eyes. Something close to the abysses of the earth, something of oil, something new.” *
Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Father tell me if you can
All that grace, all that body
All that face, makes me wanna party
He’s my sun, he makes me shine like diamonds**
Sorour Darabi recites a letter to her father, Baba. What comes out and goes into your mouth? “Why am I writing to you in French?” S/he tells him that s/he misses him, is thinking of his hairy chest, of his potential lover, Ahmad, a sexy “doe-eyed” soldier. Through this declaration of love, scattered with incest and death, a way of “being (…) a lover”. We become lovers of silence. And if you quickly imagine yourself between Tehran and Shiraz, in the middle of the flower revolution, martyrs’ bodies and portraits painted on walls as a reminder. But as a reminder of what?
On stage candles become weapons, almost grenades. Contrite, but still liberated, and mastering their gestures, their actions, their big eyes that take us off into another temporality, Sorour Darabi generously offers us an invitation not to have a spectacular experience, but rather to gather our thoughts.
In a recent post on social media, Sorour claimed the word “degargoon نوگرگدِ ” which means
“another spice” and “deconstructed” to make up for the vacuousness that the word “queer” can imply. Once again Sorour is where you don’t expect them to be. With precision and still intoxicated by a desire for invention, we find ourselves desiring again as the audience of a deconstruction to come.
“Have you seen that brown naked body, full of flowers, hair and love.” *
And all the ways, I got to know
Your pretty face and electric soul
Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful? **
Searching for sorrow, for a gesture of electric sorrow and grandiose melancholy, Sorour Darabi is a voice that comes out of the night and dances with ghosts.
The last time we saw one another was in a bar in Ménilmontant in Paris. We talked about queer, about our communities, our chosen families, and how we didn’t really feel we belonged in these worlds. I recognised a sister/brother of melancholy who, as on stage, moves through different times and emotions that are hard to “show” in too simple a way. I also saw in it a splendid ode to vulnerability as a force, as a political and artistic force. A way too of being positioned in a world where our racialised, gendered, sexualised bodies struggle to find an existence, an autonomy, a way too of finding our own language. To survive and to thrive is an expression that I’ve often seen here and there in certain poems on the internet or in private emails. To survive and to thrive, Sorour Darabi teaches us to redefine our bodies and our hearts with mastery and poetry (and in secret). To ultimately light a final candle for our previous ways of understanding the world, our different lives and those to come.
“I saw a light where you didn’t want to answer my last text I understand more why the flowers don’t talk I saw a light…” *
* excerpts from poetry composed while this article was being written
** excerpts of words from the song by Lana del Rey, Young And Beautiful (2013)
Sorour Darabi is a self-taught Iranian artist living and working in Paris. Working actively in Iran, s/he was a part of the underground organisation ICCD, whose festival Untimely (Teheran) hosted their work before their departure for France. During studies at the CCN de Montpellier s/he created the solo Subject to Change, a performance that questions transformation with regards to time and one’s cohabitation with an environment. In 2016, s/he created Farci.e, a solo dealing in notions of language, gender identity and sexuality, at the Festival Montpellier Danse. Savušun (2018), an ode to affect, to vulnerability, and to beings who are affected, is inspired by the grieving ceremonies of the Muharram and deals in questions of emotions: grief, fear, and suffering.Back to top