Endangered Productions interviews Milan Mahdavi who performs as an Arabian dancer, wedding guest and troll in our 2022 major production Peer Gynt. Her mother, Zari Najafi who lives in Tehran, created her costume. Milan draws on her proud heritage and gives the Western music of Grieg her own twist (or shimmy).
Multi-talented Milan, who we love so much, is celebrating her new career. Milan came to Australia five years ago to study for a PhD in Literature, but instead she has just finished her Juris Doctor - a Master’s in Law - an amazing achievement for someone who is not a native speaker. It was really challenging trying to compete with her fellow students.
Even in her home country of Iran, Milan was a high achiever, working as a lecturer in Persian Literature before coming to Australia. A life-long lover of the Arts, Milan wants to retain her heritage in Australia. Dance has always been an important part of her life - in her family and community. It has a significant role in Persian culture and is a well-developed and respected art form. The movements demonstrate flexibility, grace, upper body dominance, and connection with the audience. It is feminine, shows a sense of pride, and expresses a particular emotion – often happiness!
What’s it like to dance to the music of Grieg? When I was first asked to do some Arabian dancing in this production, I thought, ‘Fine. No big deal. I can do this’. Then I heard Grieg’s music and I freaked out. I’d never heard music like this before. Arabic music is very fast and rhythmic. Grieg is slow. How do I shimmy to Grieg?
Thankfully, I had help from our wonderful Movement Director, Alison Lee. I figured out a way to slow the movements down to fit Grieg’s music. Now, I just shimmy away. I think Ibsen and Grieg would approve!
Where did your costume come from? All the way from Tehran! I told my Mum about the role, and she said that she would make my costume. The last time she made a dress like the one I’m wearing for this production, I was 15! In my role as a Wedding Guest, I get to dress in a western-style, old-world costume – like a princess! Then there’s my troll outfit - that’s another thing entirely!
What do you like about Peer Gynt? Being involved in Endangered Productions and working on Peer Gynt has helped me get through the isolating world of studying during COVID. They’re like an Aussie family to me.