Persian Student Association to showcase multiculturalism

By John Bohn, Daily Arts Writer
Published March 30, 2012

On the first day of spring, the Iranian calendar — having followed the revolutions of the moon as one of human history’s longest chronological records — marks a new year. During this time, Persians celebrate the End and Rebirth, the change in years, called Nauruz in Farsi. Nauruz is celebrated publicly in a variety of countries by the Iranian people and those cultures part of Greater Iran. The Persian New Year has been brought to the University campus by the Persian Student Association since the group’s inception, and tomorrow will be the event’s 14th annual celebration.

Soul va Safah


Tomorrow at 7 p.m.
Power Center
From $5


“It’s about Persian culture,” said LSA senior Payam Entezami. “To teach others what it’s about, the deep-rooted traditions and history of the Persian culture ... to help remind those who have forgotten about it because they’ve lived here for so long, to let them know Persians are still here and our traditions are still strong.”

This will be Entezami’s third year participating in the cultural show. Born in Iran in 1990 and having moved to the U.S. with his family in 1994, Entezami is one of many Persian students on campus and one of the 50 active members of the Persian Student Association. This year, he will be the stage manager, coordinating behind the scenes as well as performing in a variety of the cultural performances showcased.

The event, with usually 30-50 students participating, is run, choreographed and organized by students. They aren’t necessarily art students or dance-savvy. They are simply driven to learn and represent the historical traditions of Persian culture.

“You don’t have to have any experience,” Entezami said. “People just learn the rhythm of the music. We have a lot of non-Iranians who dance too, that want to learn about it, and since it’s an all-inclusive group, we usually have a lot of races in our groups. So it’s great to teach others about Iranian dance as well.”

The theme for this year’s event is “Soul va Safah,” the Farsi phrase for “Peace and Happiness.” Unlike previous years, this year’s event will have a greater multicultural aspect, with performances by other cultural groups on campus.

“We reached out to the Iraqi Student Association on campus since this is their first year as an organization at U of M,” Entezami said. “We reached out to them to come perform at our show, which is huge considering the history between Iraq and Iran in the last couple of decades. So we’re excited about them performing and bringing our cultures together.”

Added LSA senior and PSA Board Member Roya Zand: “We want to bridge the gap between our cultures ... and put a good message between us.”

Zand has her own personal ties to Iran. Her mother came to the University for graduate school before the Iranian Revolution, and her father immigrated when he was 15. This year, Zand will participate in multiple performances.

Various types of Iranian dance will be represented, including Kurdish, Turkish and Traditional. A Persian fashion show will display the distinct styles of Iran’s many regions, such as Shomali, Fars, Kurdi, Azerbaijan, Khuzestan, as well as that of Modern Tehran and the hybrid style of the large Iranian population in Los Angeles dubbed “Tehrangeles.”

When asked how the Persian Cultural Show gets ahold of Iranian dress, Entezami replied, “We reach out to Iranians in the Southeast Michigan area. A lot of Iranian families have all these traditional outfits. You can’t really go to a store here and buy Iranian outfits, so it all depends on people who have outfits that bring them from Iran and them reaching out to us and offering these things.”

Los Angeles stand-up comedian K-Von Moezzi will also be returning to the show this year. Part Iranian and European-American, his background makes his comedy able to speak to everyone in the audience.

“He can really get at the Iranian culture and make people look at it in a comedic way, which is great,” Entezami said. “He’s young and very energetic and really fits with our type of crowd.”

With the multicultural theme of the event this year, Entezami, Zand and the other students of the Persian Student Association hope to not only continue to promote the awareness of Persian culture, but also bring together the diverse cultural groups on campus.

“We get such a huge positive response after the show,” Entezami said. “People tell us their perception of Persian people has changed dramatically since it has been so rooted in the media and the negative images that are portrayed in the news, which you can’t really blame since there is so much stuff going on right now and you can’t really see the foundation, the ground of the Persian people.”

Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the Persian Student Association as the Persian Student Assembly.