Dancing in the past, present and future: An interview with Sashar Zarif

solos of my life (working title)

A DanceWorks Mainstage Event

Sashar Zarif Dance Theatre (Toronto)

Thurs. May 12 through Sat. May 14, 8pm at the Enwave Theatre

Tickets: www.danceworks.ca

Interview by Lucy Rupert


Lucy Rupert: How did you choose this amazing and impressively experienced group of dancers for this project? 

Sashar Zarif: As our souls progress we make choices for different reasons; an infant soul makes choices based on survival, a more mature soul makes choices based on relationships. I am lucky that this great group of artists chose to work with me!

LR: Part of your description of solos of my life refers to current realities and future dreams….can you speak a little about the importance of time in your work?

SZ: I have come to understand that my identity is not only about my history, my present or my future; it is about a person right here, right now, who lived through that history while striving, dreaming, hoping, and aiming for a better future.

I have been working to develop an identity – one that includes the diversity of cultures I have been a part of, but also the urge to belong and be part of the texture of the community I live in now. My objective is not to discover within myself some essential allegiance, rather the opposite; I scour my memory to find as many ingredients of my identity as I can.

LR: What compels you to work with contemporary dance artists (instead of classically-trained artists)?

SZ: Contemporary artists exist in the present. To me, a contemporary here-and-now artist is working towards an unpremeditated, open and inclusive future. This very quality and characteristic of contemporary artists I have the honor to work with enables me to connect with them on a deeper and truer level.

LR: When I danced in your work “Water,” I was really struck by how natural it is to express through the face, but that in contemporary dance we train for a long time with this mechanism off– how do you deal with this in your creation and working with contemporary dancers?

SZ: It is very important to understand that facial expression, in my opinion, is not just another body part moving or expressing but a shrine of our sensibility and soul. Therefore it is not to animate, move or pose in a certain way but to reflect the experience that the dancer is going through while communicating her inner world or soul through her body.

LR: What are the solos of your life? What does each stand for?

SZ: They are stories I have told myself in the search for identity from experiences of conflict, displacement and migration. These strong, mature performers interpreted the imagery of the stories I shared with them and brought their own experiences to their individual expression. The solos are not performed alone: the dancers appear together, revealing the richness of each individual’s portrayal, while illuminating the separation or connection we all feel for one another and the world we share.  

This interview has been edited for content and length.


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