From Uzbekistan to India, Turkey to Afghanistan, the Ballet Afsaneh Art and Culture Society brings to the stage the vibrant sights and sounds of the ancient route through Asia known as the Silk Road.

Posted: January 14, 2012 in Art, Geography, History, International, Jazz, Language, Region, Tajikistan
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(click here for a great 8 minute news piece explaining who Ballet Afsaneh is, what they do, what they think about culture and art… very interesting group and project. 

(I tried, but could not embed the video).

From Uzbekistan to India, Turkey to Afghanistan, the Ballet Afsaneh Art and Culture Society brings to the stage the vibrant sights and sounds of the ancient route through Asia known as the Silk RoadSpark sits in as they rehearse Sharlyn Sawyer’s “Song of Generations,” a multi-generational collaboration with the Nejad World Music Daf Ensemble that celebrates Persian culture and history.

A crossroads of trade in ideas as well as goods, the 7,000-mile-long Silk Road connected the empires of Byzantium, the Ottomans, India, Persia and Mongolia with Western Europe for more than 2,000 years. Combining music, poetry and dance, Ballet Afsaneh’s performances offer a richly textured perspective on cultures that originate in modern-day Iran, Tajikstan, Uzbekhistan and Afghanistan — an alternative to the usual news about political upheaval and war in that region.

Founded in 1986 by California native Sawyer, Ballet Afsaneh’s repertoire spans the traditional as well as the contemporary, with colorful dances created by Sawyer in collaboration with the other members of the troupe. Sawyer’s training includes both Eastern and Western dance styles, and she focuses on preserving and presenting the traditional dances of women from the various countries that make up Central Asia and Asia Minor.

Lyrical, classically influenced dances like Barg e Behesht — with its expressive, twining arms and graceful movements under a canopy of blue silk representing the sky — evoke the elegant storytelling traditions of the Persian courts. In contrast, the company’s Uzbekh repertoire includes dances in the playful Bukhuran style as well as the softer, more emotional Ferghana style, which reenacts celebrations, such as weddings and festivals.

A troupe mainly composed of women, Ballet Afsaneh also showcases its members in the traditional folkloric and ritual dances of Afghanistan, such as the Loghari and Attan, as a response to the religious and political strife that has kept women from dancing or performing in public in Afghanistan during the rule of the Taliban.


Ballet Afsaneh, the professional performance ensemble of the Afsaneh Art & Culture Society, is based in the San Francisco Bay Area of California in the USA. This dynamic group presents performances and activities featuring dance, poetry, and music of the Silk Road —the historic trade route stretching 7,000 miles across the continenet of Eurasia from the China Sea in the east to the Mediterranean in the west. The Ballet Afsaneh repertoire displays a wide range, from the glittering lyricism of fairytale to incisive, thought provoking, contemporary work.

Traditional repertoire includes dances representing; Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Armenia, Turkey, Chinese Turkistan, Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, and North India. In our rapidly changing world the need for cultural understanding and preservation has never been greater; Ballet Afsaneh brings to light the history, poetry, iconography, and spiritual heart of these enduring cultures. Promoting positive visibility for these expressive arts in all of their beauty and richness, so that such cultural treasures can be shared by the world.

Many of the 15 core dancers, poets and musicians performing with the company are from Central Asian families, a majority are women. Ballet Afsaneh often performs at large mainstream venues and provides programming for many smaller, community-oriented events as well. The company occasionally tours both nationally and internationally.
Past Performance Highlights

Since its founding by Artistic Director Sharlyn Sawyer in 1986, Ballet Afsaneh and the Afsaneh Art & Culture Society have produced critically acclaimed programs for San Francisco’s M.H. De Young Museum, the Asian Art Museum, British Museum in London, and the Cabrillo Music Festival. They have been honored by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for producing the annual Norooz (Persian New Year) event at SF City Hall, and are featured regularly in San Francisco’s Ethnic Dance Festival at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater. The company has toured in Central Asia and sponsors international artists during their visits to the United States.


Links to video of Ballet Afsaneh performing can be found here.

Ballet Afsaneh at the Asian Art Museum – MATCHA program for “The Hidden Treasures of Afghanistan” – 2008

Ballet Afsaneh

Ballet Afsaneh – Nejad: Norooz 2007

Dances of the Silk Road & Beyond


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