AVAZ International Dance Theatre was founded in 1977 by Artistic Director Anthony Shay. Shay was also the founding director of AMAN Folk Ensemble, which grew out of the UCLA Village Dancers in 1963. He used his knowledge of Middle Eastern culture, music, and dance and extensive research to create authentic dances representative of the region. In the 1970’s at the start of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Shay felt the need to respond to the Iranian refugees and refocus on Iranian dance. At the same time, he felt that AMAN needed to grow its repertoire to be more international. To respond to these two needs, he created the AVAZ International Dance Theatre. AVAZ’s repertoire collectively represented Hungary, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Uzbekistan. The company performed in Southern California and toured nationally and internationally.
In 1992, Jamal, AVAZ’s Iranian-born set and costume designer, began to choreograph new dances for the company. In 1994, Jamal was named the company’s Artistic Director and Choreographer. In his new role, he created the most complete repertoire of classical and folk Iranian dance in the history of the genre.
AVAZ International Dance Theatre’s mission was to preserve and perform traditional and folk dance and music from a wide variety of cultures and educate the widest possible audience about these art forms and the societies and peoples they represent.
Records of AVAZ International Dance Theatre (Biography, Photos, Programs, and List of Performances):
Epstein, Benjamin. “Iranian Rite of ‘Spring’: Dance: Avaz International, which will perform in Irvine, borrows from real-life psychodramas in which women let it all hang out.” Los Angeles Times. June 5, 1993.
Founding Director: Anthony Shay
Other Directors: Jamal (1994)
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