“Dance is poetry, it describes a feeling, a story, and every story describes the ecstatic relationship to beauty, love and divinity. The subtle movements of the fingers, the facial expression, and the mystic turning characterized in Persian dance are a communication between body and soul. As an audience you must follow the story, you must fall into dance the way a reader falls into a book.” ~Farima Berenji
Farima Berenji – MA
Founder and Artistic Director, Worldwide Simorgh Dance Collective
Assistant Director and Program Director, Eastern Arts
International Performing Artist – Dance Ethnologist
Instructor – Choreographer – Persian/Sufi Dance Master
Anthropologist – Archaeologist
Member of the International Dance Council CID, UNESCO
Farima Berenji is an Iranian-American scholar and dance ethnologist, an award winning internationally acclaimed dance artist, a choreographer, instructor, and an archaeologist specializing in ancient, sacred, classical, and folkloric dances of Persia, Ionia, and the Silk Road. She is a third generation artist—her devotion to the world of arts inspired by both her mother and grandmother as performing artists, poets, and musicians of Azerbaijani heritage. Farima has spent her lifetime studying Persian/Iranian and Central Asian dance, culture, and history. Recognized as one of the few world scholarly experts of ancient and mystical dance ethnology, she travels worldwide to record, research, lecture, perform, educate, and to inspire dynamic creativity and rejuvenation through dance and movement.
As a Sufi from the bloodline of St. Fateme and a Magi (Shaman) from the bloodline of Iranian Zoroastrian Magi, Farima is strongly connected to spirituality and healing. She is one of the very few Iranian women granted by the Magi and Gwati tribes of Iran to perform ancient healing and sacred rituals. Her Shamanic healing therapies are now in use in hospitals in Iran and the US. Farima infuses spirituality into her dance and teachings to exceptionally impassion, empower, and inspire students to deeply understand the meaning of culture and dance and to explore dance as a powerful means to express emotion, facilitate spiritual healing, and bridge cultures. Using her own findings and techniques she makes the connection between soul and movement to create an artist not just a dancer. United in all her accomplishments is her contribution in advocating art, culture, and dance to help bridge cultural gaps and create respect among all people. She seeks to lead people to the historic beauty and richness of Persia and the Silk Road culture and to aid them find inner bliss through dance, music, and spirituality.
Education and Training
Farima has a Masters of Arts Education degree in anthropology and archeology with special emphasis in Persianate studies and dance ethnology. She also holds a B.S. in Health Science with a Minor in Art History and Performing Arts. Following her education, Farima completed her residency with the UN writing her archaeological thesis Cross-Cultural Education: A Dialogue among Cultures and her anthropological dance thesis Poetry in Motion. She continued her UN research work on excavations of Iranian archeology emphasizing the preservation of ancient and mystical dances of Indo-Iran. Farima’s dance and spiritual training spans years of intensive research with master artists, scholars, and spiritual teachers worldwide. She has been privileged to study with great masters and at great institutions such as the San Jose Ballet, Nancy Rose and Dr. Golberz (Director of Kafkaz Dance Company of Turkey), Dr. Anthony Shay (Director of Avaz Dance Company), Robert De Warren (Director of National Ballet of Iran), Dr. Lloyd Miller (Director of Eastern Arts), Dr. Johanna Movassat (Professor of Middle Eastern Studies), Dr. Jorge Miller (Professor of Archeology), Sufi master and Dervish Dr. Rahmi Oruç Güvenç of Turkey, Sufi masters and dervishes of “Yarsan” Khorasan and Kurdistan, various nomadic dance masters and ethnic tribes of Iran and Azerbaijan, and her mother and grandmother who were her first dance teachers and mentors.
Artist Director and Founder
Farima is the founder and artistic director of the Simorgh Dance Collective (founded in 2007). She is the first Iranian dance artist to found a worldwide collaborative devoted to preservation, performance, and promotion of ancient, classical, and folkloric dance of Persia and the Silk Road. Based upon her own intensive archaeological excavation that revealed the legends of ancient heroines and priestesses, she founded the Lioness project. The Lioness seeks to re-create and teach movement theory and styles of ancient warrioresses and amazons of Persia, Mesopotamia, and the Near East. She is also founder and director of the Poetry in Motion project, an improvisational dance method based on expression, feeling, and ecstatic movement to Persian classical poetry. It combines the sacred, classical, and folk teachings of Persia and Central Asia. Her Awakening project is based upon her anthropological and mythological dance research of Indo-Iranian sacred and ritual dances, sacred animals, birds, and elements. The Awakening serves as a gateway for self-growth and spiritual transformation through movement, dance therapy, stillness, visualization, ancient rituals, and the invocation of ancient Persian, Mesopotamian, and Near Eastern sacred elements and goddesses.
Choreography and Collaboration
Farima has lectured, facilitated research projects, collaborated, choreographed, and performed for highly acclaimed internationally renowned companies and institutions such as Payvand Dance Company, Avaz Dance Company, Djanbazian Dance Company, Mystic Rose Dance Company, Mosaic America (formerly Sangam Arts), Rosanna Gamson World Wide, ODC, World Dance Fusion of San Francisco, Katy Mata Ballet, Istanbul Conservatory of the Arts, Vienna Conservatory of the Arts, Bay Area Dance Watch, National Folk Organization (NFO), the Unique Circle of Manchester, “30 Voices” Women’s Rights Organization, the Tumata Organization of Turkey, UNESCO, SF City Hall, Census California, Kansas State University, University of Manchester, University of London, Istanbul University, Stanford University, San Francisco State University, San Francisco City Hall, Foothill College, the Egyptian Museum, the San Jose Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the French Museum of Art, and the Iranian National Museum and Conservatory. Farima has collaborated with acclaimed music and dance masters such as Rashid Shadat, Ador Hooyar, Varol Ozkaner, Davood Azad, Latif Bolat, Ashraf Ali, Mina Maral, Nilofar Talebi, Pezhham Akhavass, Rosanan Gamson, Anna Djanbazizan, Sadegh Azmand, Mohammad Nejad, Dr. Rahmi Oruç Güvenç, and many other companies, musicians, and artists based in U.S., Iran, Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, and Turkey. She has performed on different occasions for Vice President Joe Biden, Alaska Governor Bill Walker, and the Ambassadors of Georgia, Canada, Austria, and Turkey. She has collaborated with actors and directors Sadegh Hatafi, Ali Aminipour, and Farhang Heydari. Farima is a member of the United Nations Association, the International Dance Council (CID – UNESCO), UNESCO, the National Folk Organization (NFO), Eastern Arts as directed by Dr. Lloyd Miller, Mosaic America, Vessal, and a past member of the Tumata Music Organization. She has appeared in scholarly documentaries and press hosted by National Geographic, PBS, Iran, and the U.N., and has been highlighted in various international media.
Awards and Accolades
Farima has been honored with numerous awards in performing arts communities for excellence, cultural diplomacy and preservation, and for expertise of leadership. Farima is the recipient of the prestigious UN/UNAaward for her dance ethnology research and globally advocating dance education, inspiring positive personal and social change, as well as advocating dance history and dance archeological preservation. She has been similarly recognized by the European Union. Farima has received an appreciation award by the Turkish Ministry of Art. She is the first Iranian-American to perform live at the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, Turkey, first Iranian-American woman to perform and be recognized by the National Folk Dance Organization of America, and her Simorgh Dance Collective was the first Iranian dance company, directed by an Iranian woman to perform during a reception for President Obama. She has also been recognized by Congressman Mike Honda, Alaska Governor Bill Walker, the Iranian Woman’s Rights Committee “30 Voices”, Tumata (Music and Cultural Organization of Turkey), San Jose City College, San Jose State University, Cal State Hayward, Bay Area Dance Watch, the Payvand Cultural Group, Iranian Inspiration Organization, Vienna Conservatory, Istanbul Youth Art Conservatory, and the University of Manchester. Farima is the first woman to lead a zikr and ancient Persian healing ritual within modern Turkey. In 2018, she became the first American-Iranian woman honored to be a TEDx dance speaker and performer. She is the first Iranian woman artist to receive the Bay Area Dance Watch Single Rose honorary award. Farima’s research and unique approach to classical and sacred dance and her research in ancient healing rituals are now being used in many educational institutions, dance schools, and healing centers worldwide.