Persian dance instructor Shahrzad Khorsandi and the young dancers of Cornell
“The shimmy is called an isolation,” says Shahrzad Khorsandi, or Ms. Shazzy to her students, Cornell second graders learning Persian dance. “We’re isolating just the shoulders and hands. Arms up and drop.” The dancers bend at the waist. “And up! Now really release the body down and pop back up. Now jump to right, jump to left and walk around yourself.”
A twenty-year veteran of Persian dance instruction, Shahrzad’s in her second year at Cornell, thanks in part to SchoolCARE, which supports dance in Cornell’s four second-grade classes.
“They get tired for sure. It’s a workout,” says second-grade teacher Anne Alcott, who periodically shimmies from the sidelines. “Moving their bodies in space is a very new skill for them. I really see them thinking about the choreography.”
“Now shake out your arms and your hands,” says Shahrzad. “We’re learning a new step today, the camel walk . . . use your peripheral vision to keep track of how much space you have.”
The young dancers shimmy and undulate like snakes to Bandari – the dance music of Persian Gulf ports, a mix of Arabian and African rhythms, movement and attire. For the parent-performance in March, the kids will dress in scarves and skirts sewn with coins to jingle along with their sinuous moves.
They’ll kel, too, a high-pitched ululation, and attempt the tricky, two-handed Persian snap.
“Now what’s the snap called in Farsi? Anyone remember?” asks Shahrzad. “That’s right—the beshkan.”
- Other SchoolCARE supported programs/people at Cornell: Youth in Arts provided hip hop for kindergarten and first grade; poetry, Civil Rights Storytelling and theater for fifth grade; iPads for English Language Development; YMCA lunch-time activity coordinators and the Library Technician.
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