At the tender age of 3, Keon Saghari took her first steps on the dance floordashing into the middle of one of her older sister’s lessons at Ballet San Jose School.
“Eventually they put up a little baby fence so I couldn’t get in,” Saghari said. “After a while, I think her teacher just felt really bad for me.” So bad, in fact that the instructor bent the rules and admitted the young Saghari, making her the youngest student in the school.
Now at 27, Saghari has returned to her roots at the New Ballet, founded from the ashes of Ballet San Jose School, to put on an original program she choreographed for their studio company. The piece, “Vorood,” is part of the company’s Fast Forward program, which will debut at San Jose State’s Dance Theater on Feb. 10.
“Vorood” means “to enter” in Persian. The piece honors her heritage and her parents, who emigrated from Iran to the U.S. in the late 1970s to attend college.
“I was thinking a lot about my family and thinking about the courage that it takes to emigrate and to travel to a new country,” she said.
Feeling inspired, Saghari spent a lot of time researching immigration and spoke with her mom about what caused her parents to leave Iran at 18. She drew from her experience with contemporary, improvisation, ballet and modern dance styles to translate those emotions into movement.
“It is more of an abstract piece,” she said. “[There’s] a lot of emotions filled in it. It’s about immigration. It’s about leaving your comfort. It’s about being pushed outside of your world and what you know.”
She also wanted to show her Middle Eastern influences in the performance, especially the accompanying score, which features traditional Persian songs remixed by producer, and fellow Iranian-American, Omid Walizadeh.
“I feel like it’s a part of my job to share some of the beautiful aspects of my culture,” she said.
After her formative training with Ballet San Jose School, Saghari went on to Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet at Dominican University, graduating summa cum laude. She spent the next five years in San Francisco performing with multiple dance companies that took her on tours to 20 states as well as Israel and China. She was also asked to teach classes at New Ballet, which led to the studio company collaboration.
Feb 10, 2pm & 7pm, $5+
SJSU Dance Theater