Five Questions for Sahar Javedani
Name: Sahar Javedani
Title/Occupation: Artistic Director
Organization/Company: compani javedani
1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?
My family left Tehran, Iran just before the revolution in 1978. My very few memories of Iran are in black and white. We moved directly to San Diego where i started at a baptist pre-school, learning english, and coming home everyday telling my parents we were going to hell because we weren’t christian (we were Baha’i.)
i went to public school and was called every possible derogatory term for Middle-Eastern under the sun by my schoolmates. I fled and incubated in the theater, performing in many plays since the age of four. I survived and triumphed. My senior year in high school i was crowned Miss Encinitas and deferred college for a year. i spent that year fundraising for the community center i wanted to build for my town of Encinitas.
Graduated from Hollins University with my Bachelor of Arts in Dance and Theater. Graduated from California Institute of the Arts with my Master of Fine Arts in Choreography and Integrated Media.
After grad school, i returned to Encinitas to see my community center constructed! My father was the architect. I served as Production Director and Recreation Leader for two years while serving as Associate Faculty at Mira Costa College teaching world dance and cultures.
In the winter of 2004, i moved to NYC to co-found a new dance ensemble called TEA (Transpersonal Education & Art). Created evening lengths works for seasons at The Flea Theater and Danspace Project. In winter 2006, i created my own enterprise ~ compani javedani ~ as artistic director with a collective of designers, dancers and composers. We make dance-theater works centered on Iran, it’s people, history, art, hope for the future…
2. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?
During my junior year in Paris for the Hollins Abroad program, my theater professor Phillipe Pantet introduced me to Ariane Mnoushkine and her Theatre du Soleil. We saw a production of “Et Soudain des Nuits D’Eveil” a work developed around the struggle for freedom in Tibet. Mnouchkine shattered the fourth wall in the most phantasmagorical way. As soon as you entered the space it became a total theatrical experience; the scent, the food, the light, the sound, the architecture. I was transformed, i wanted to slide under those audience bleachers where the performers had their open dressing room and never leave. I ended up seeing that production ten times and studied the script obsessively. What attracted me so ferociously in this socialist ensemble’s work was the depth and breadth of research and process invested in every production. I dream that someday i can manifest that same level of precision in magnitude.
3. What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?
Like my mother, i have always wanted to be an acrobat. To conquer my fear of heights, to fly, to bear witness to all in my surroundings without a tether.
4. What do you do to make a living? Describe a normal day.
I run a full-time LEAP after school program in yoga at PS 163 in Manhattan. I teach bellydance, athletic stretch, and bhangra, and occasionally play manager at Reebok Sports Club/NY.
5. Have you ever had to make a choice between work and art? What did you choose, why, and what was the outcome?
For the first few years i lived in NYC, i worked at a non-profit arts service organization as a membership and finance manager. While i loved loved loved helping my artistic peers secure funds and commissions for their projects, i grew disenchanted with my own lack of dedication to achieve the same for myself. I felt a consistent fatigue because i was not committing fully to my creative goal.
So i took the tools i learned and booked it out of there. The year i left that organization and created compani javedani, we secured over thirty performances in our inaugural season and I put my dancers on salary. Yes, indeed…everything is possible. Last year i was nominated for the Rolex Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative, and I am currently in my second year as Artist-in-Residence at Tribeca Performing Arts Center, and participating in the Fresh Tracks Performance and Residency Program at Dance Theater Workshop.