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Under the Azure Dome (March 17 through March 19, 2006)
Canada's largest Nowruz (Persian New Year) Festival at Harbourfront Centre

TORONTO, March 8, 2006Harbourfront Centre hosts Canada's largest ever Nowruz (Persian New Year) festival Under The Azure Dome beginning Friday March 17 through Sunday March 19, 2006. This exciting new festival features more than 100 artists and performers in film, music, dance, theatre, visual arts and more! The ancient pancultural celebration of Nowruz is celebrated by peoples from historical Persian territories in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkey and India - many of whom will be represented at the festival. All Under the Azure Dome events are free (except for Sense of Spring concerts) and will be held at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West, Toronto). For more information the public can call (416) 973-4000 or visit www.azuredome.ca . Program details below:

Co-produced by the Iranian Association at the University of Toronto (IAUT) and Harbourfront Centre - Under the Azure Dome highlights include film screenings and screenwriting workshops by respected Iranian director Kambozia Partovi (Border Café); theatrical dance by acclaimed Paris-based artist Shahrokh Meshkin Ghalam; music by master santoor player Pirouz Yousefian along with Ed Hanley(Autorickshaw) on tabla and more than thirty-five artists' works gathered together in the multiple media visual arts exhibition Silence of Colours.

Under The Azure Dome features family-oriented events and craft activities (such as egg painting) with Nasrin Javanfar. The festival will also recreate a Persian style Tea House. The space will be artfully designed (by Setareh Delzendeh) and installed with vibrant and colourful Persian fabrics, rugs and lighting. The Tea House will be a central meeting place for the festival with continuous performances. The festival also features Persian cuisine, Nowruz sweets and pastries for purchase.

Under The Azure Dome launches grandly with Sense of Spring - a unique Classical concert featuring an orchestra of more than fifty members playing works by celebrated Azeri and Persian composers, led by acclaimed conductor Mehdi Javanfar (separate media release available). This event takes place on March 17 and March 18 at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre (Tickets $25 to $40, performances at 8 p.m., call 416-973-4000 for tickets).

What is NOWRUZ? (pronounced No Rooz):
This year's Nowruz New Year celebration is number 2565 on the Persian calendar and year 1385 on the Iranian Calendar beginning March 20, 2006 (the first day of Spring) and lasting for thirteen days. Nowruz ceremonies are generally symbolic of two ancient concepts - the End and Rebirth (or Good and Evil). A few weeks prior to New Year Persians clean and rearrange their homes and make new clothes, bake pastries and germinate seeds as signs of renewal. A ceremonial cloth is set up in each household. Nowruz conveys a wealth of ancient customs for many religious groups and embodies the continuity of ancient Persian culture. More Nowruz info at: www.farsinet.com/norooz/ or http://persia.org/Culture/nowruz.html
Festival Highlights and Performance Details

Under the Azure Dome Cinema/Film:

Kambozia Partovi (Iran) Film Screenings
(March 18 and March 19, noon to 2:30 p.m., Studio Theatre, free)
This award winning Iranian director and screenwriter (Border Café screened at many festivals in 2005, including Toronto, while his other films have won awards at the Berlin, Frankfurt and Locarno film festivals) will screen two of his films in Canada for the first time. Nane lala (1997) and Adult’s Game will be shown each day with English subtitles. Daily screenings will be followed by an artist Q&A. More artist info at: http://www.e.bell.ca/filmfest/2005/films_description.asp?id=49

Kambozia Partovi workshop
(March 18 and March 19, 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., Harbourfront Centre Tea Room, free)
The acclaimed Iranian screenwriter holds a two-part workshop series on screenwriting.
Attendees need to preregister for these workshops, please call 416-617-5691 to register.

Cinema Critique with Aref Mohammadi
(March 18 and March 19, 10:30 a.m., Studio Theatre, free)
Aref Mohammadi, a graduate in Persian Litrature from Azad University in Iran, studied filmmaking at the Association of Iranian Youth Cinema and film editing at the Centre of Filmmaking in Tehran. This producer and director of several short movies is also the producer and host of a popular Toronto TV film review program. He will conduct a two part two day lecture Cinema Critique on Iranian Cinema before and after the 1979 revolution in Iran.


Under the Azure Dome Dance

Shahrokh Meshkin Ghalam (Paris)
(March 18 at 8 p.m. and March 19 at 5 p.m., Studio Theatre, free)
This acclaimed Paris-based dancer and choreographer will perform three works featuring themes ranging from Nowruz to the story of a mythical character in Lorestan, Iran. For more artist information, please visit www.shahrokh-nakissa.com

Ida Meftahi
(March 18 at 6:30 p.m. and March 19 at 8 p.m., Studio Theatre, free)
This Toronto dancer/choreographer is a protégé of legendary Iranian dancer Farzenah Kobali and has peformed extensively in Canada. Meftahi will present five dances showcasing the wide variety of movement traditions in Iran, ranging from female folk dances such as Gilani (from Northern province of Gilan) and Khorasani (from North Eastern of Khorasan), to contemporary pieces inspired by men's zoorkhaneh (the house of strength - an ancient form of martial arts), the stick dance, and the spiritual ceremony of Pirshalyar in Kurdistan. The programme covers folk, traditional, contemporary and mystical dances.”

Sashar Zarif
(March 18 at 5 p.m. and March 19 at 6:30 p.m., Studio Theatre, free)
This internationally known Toronto artist presents an excerpt from the work Meeting with Saghi which the Sashar Zarif Dance Theatre is touring throughout Europe and North America in 2006. The performance will include selections of traditional and ritualistic Central Asian, Azerbaijani, and Persian classical Dance forms arranged to live music original compositions by santour master Pirouz Yousefian accompanied by Amir Kargaran on tar.

Fethi Karakecili
(March 18 at 8 p.m. and March 19 at 1:30 p.m., Lakeside Terrace Tea House, free)
This artist has organized two successful International dance festivals in Toronto while also performing in venues as a soloist and with his dance troupe, Koma Zilan. In traditional Persian folk costume, this graduate of conservatory of dance in Turkey will entertain with folk dances from Turkey (Kurdish, Armenian and Assyrian). Similar dances are performed in Iran as well.


Under the Azure Dome Family
Nasrin Javanfar
(March 18, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Zoom Room, free)
The festival will feature an entire afternoon of entertaining and educational activities for children
ranging from colouring eggs for Haft Seen to storytelling and dance performances.


Under the Azure Dome Music:
Visit www.duke.edu/~azomorod/persian2.html
for more information on Persian Classical music

Hassan Yousef Zamani with Pejwak
(March 18 at 4:30 p.m. and March 19 at 5:30 p.m., Brigantine Room, free)
This internationally acclaimed Toronto-based master of Persian music, (who has composed over a hundred works of music performed by renowned musicians and singers) makes an exciting return to stage with original Persian and Kurdish works never before performed. The violin playing Zamani will be joined by the six member ensemble Pejwak - who play on traditional Persian instruments like santour (72 string zither), tar (six string lute), tombak and daf (percussion)

Pirouz Yousefian and Ed Hanley
(March 18 at 6:30 p.m., Brigantine Room, free)
Pirouz Yousefian, a professional Toronto-based santour player, has explored various folkloric and fusionistic paths for this traditional Persian instrument. Together with tabla player Ed Hanley (Autorickshaw), this creative artist will mix Persian melodies with Indian rhythms to create a fabulous fusion of Persian and Indian music.

Shahrokh Saeedi
(March 19, 12:30 p.m., Brigantine Room, free)
This talented Toronto musician will create magnificent Iranian music on tar and sitar – two traditional Persian instruments.

Facing East
(March 18 at 5 p.m. and March 19 at 6:30 p.m., Lakeside Terrace Tea House, free)
This young and culturally diverse group of seven will perform Bandari, an Iranian folk music known for its vibrancy and liveliness. This multi-talented group of seven, which mostly consists of students, will come together with several musical instruments such as bagpipes, drums and pianos to create spectacular works representing Persian culture and celebration.
The group will be accompanied at both performances by guest vocalist and puppeteer Vida Ghahremani.

Behnam and DJ Siamak
(March 18, 11 p.m., Brigantine Room, $12 / call 416-973-4000 to purchase tickets)
Iranian poet and journalist Behnam Jahanbeiglou, together with Persian DJ Siamak,
will host and perform at a youth focussed late-night show also featuring a live band TBA.

Mahin Mohajer workshop
(March 19, 2:30 p.m., Brigantine Room, free)
Mahin Mohajer - who has studied Radifs (melodic building blocks of Iranian traditional music) with Iran’s foremost female traditional vocalist, Fatemeh Vaezi - presents a vocal workshop in Persian singing. Open to all ages.

Under the Azure Dome Theatre

Vida Ghahremani
(March 18 and March 19 at 3 p.m., Lakeside Terrace Tea House, free)
This renowned actress will present puppet shows with various themes - in one show her puppets will dance to live Banadari music; in another they deal with problems of new immigrant; and in another they feature a new presentation of an old tale.

Sasan Ghahreman
(March 18 at 1:30 p.m. and March 19 at 5 p.m., Lakeside Terrace Tea House, free)
This artist (who studied Literature and Culture and Drama in Iran and English Literature and Sociology in Canada), will present an old art form of reciting and acting epic poems of Shahnameh (Book of Kings) in a one-man show at the Tea House.

Soheil Parsa: Staged Reading of The Passion of Hallaj
(March 18 at 1 p.m. and March 19 at 8 p.m., Brigantine Room, free)
The award-winning director, actor, writer and choreographer presents a staged reading of The Passion of Hallaj. Accused of heresy, Hallaj, a legendary Sufi master, has been condemned to death by the Orthodox religious authorities for his thoughts and teachings; namely his claim of being "The Truth". On the day of his execution, he is given the chance to recant his thoughts and save the lives of his wife and son. In the final hours of his life, Hallaj struggles to make a choice: hold on to his beliefs and sacrifice his family, or recant and save their lives. For more information on Soheil Parsa, visit www.moderntimesstage.com

Under the Azure Dome Visual Arts

Silence of Colors: Contemporary Iranian/Canadian Artists
(Marilyn Brewer Community Space: March 17 (6 p.m. to midnight);
March 18 (11 a.m. to midnight) and March 19 (11 a.m. to 8 p.m.) - free)
Silence of Colours presents the artistic vitality of more than thirty-five Iranian-Canadian artists. This exhibition provides a unique opportunity to appreciate the scope of work by contemporary Iranian artists in Canada. The exhibition captures various styles from miniature and calligraphy, to expressionism, video installation, and photography. Curated by Firouza Athari.

Participating exhibition artists include: Painting - Aghdashloo Aidin,Ahmadian Salar, Athari Firouzeh, Etemadi Shahla, Ghavamian Mitra Jamali Mohsen, Melkonian Sirak, Meraji Mahmoud, Nami Tooran, Radmard Parvaneh, Razavi Farshid, Sakhavarz Ahmad, Shahrokhi Shamsi; Photography - Anvari Sam, Delzendeh Siamak, Hamidi Kiavash, Izadi Shahriar, Javanrouh Sam, Karimi Hamid, Sadigh Kiarash, Saeedi Sahrokh, Saane Mansour, Tirafkan Sadegh, Yousefi Pendar; Ceramics - Baghaeian Mahmoud; Miniatures - Alijanpour Alijan, Pirouzfar Mahnaz; Calligraphy- Daee Bahar, Shoghi Mehrdad; Animation - Alidousti Faez; Cartoon - Alidousti Faez, Jahanshahi Ali, Kowsar Nikahang, Sabouki Afshin, Sakhavarz Ahmad, Zolfaghari Jeiran; Installation - Saam Shahsahebi; Demonstrations - Nasrin Raoufian (carpet weaver), Nasim Alagha (tahzib), Mahnaz Pirouzfar (miniature). Exhibition committee - Firouzeh Aghdashloo (curator), Omid Bamdad, Setareh Delzendeh, Nikahang Kowsar, Mehrdad Shoghi. (last names first)

rebirth(March 18 to May 7 - Uncommon Objects, free)
This exhibition explores the concept of nature’s renewal and rebirth in contemporary Craft objects. Over the last two decades Craft arts practice has become increasingly diverse to where it is hard to define the line between visual arts and craft. Artists include; Soheila Esfahani, Sandra Noble Goss, Shabnam Ghazi and Carolyn Prowse-Fainmel. Curated by Amir Sheikhvand.

MahmoudBaghaeian (March 18 through March - Bounty, free)
Hours: Wed. to Sat. (11 a.m. to 8 p.m.) and Sun. (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
Highly-respected ceramic artist, Mahmoud Baghaeian (Montreal) will display a collection of works in BOUNTY Contemporary Craft Shop through March. His work is characterized by fluid, Persian-inspired motifs, blending classical contemporary forms and decoration. More artist info at www.ceramicstudio.net

All Under the Azure Dome events are co-produced by the Iranian Association at the University of Toronto (IAUT)and Harbourfront Centre. All events are being held at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay, Toronto). For more information please call 416-973-4000 or visit www.azuredome.ca or www.harbourfrontcentre.com


BEAUTY - From January through May 2006, Harbourfront Centre invites audiences to examine the idea of "beauty". Is beauty defined by personal tastes or perspectives or can we apply some universal standards? Through the eyes of the next generation of contemporary Canadian Craft artists in the Beauteous exhibition to the vibrant theatricality of Japanese dance company Pappa Tarahumara - these are just a few of the many interpretations of beauty we have to offer in these months. Beauty is part of an ongoing exploration of ideas-based programming at Harbourfront Centre
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Media Contacts:
Harbourfront Centre - Shane Gerard, 416-973-4655, sgerard@harbourfrontcentre.com
Iranian Association at the University of Toronto (IAUT)
Behrang Foroughi, 416-617-5691, info@azuredome.ca
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