My underground dance classes in Iran began in 1990. The teacher was one of my mother's friends, Nahid Kabiri, who had been in the Iranian Folkloric Dance Academy before it was dismantled in 1979 after the Islamic Revolution. Hidden from sight in the enclosed rooms of anyone who would allow us, she taught me and other women folk dances from the North, South and West of Iran, classical Persian dances, dances inspired by belly dancing and Azari folk dances.
Eventually, Kabiri established a performance troupe. Since we could be prosecuted for performing in public, she arranged her dark, damp and dusty basement into our performance space. A few women helped to clear the cobwebs and sweep the floors. Kabiri brought in old wooden benches that were joined together and covered by rugs to minimize cuts and scrapes from the rusty nails and wood splinters that jutted out of them. These rug-covered benches constituted our stage. She also borrowed what seemed to be over 100 rickety dining room chairs from her friends and neighbors to create the audience seating area.
Maedeh Hojabri has become the face of the new resistance movement. Photo via Instagram
In May, Iranian authorities quietly arrested four women. Their crimes? Posting videos of themselves dancing on Instagram.
Modesty laws in Iran forbid women from dancing in public. Last week, one of the four women arrested for her videos, teenage Insta-star Maedeh Hojabri, made what many believed to be a forced confession on Iranian state TV, according to the BBC.
But the authorities' attempt at public shaming backfired: Since the confession aired, Hojabri has become the face of a new resistance movement.