The second time his family traveled to the United States from Iran, they never went home.
Growing up in the United States, Hirbod Rahimi, a fourth-year neuroscience and biology student, often felt left out living in a neighborhood where he thought his culture was never acknowledged. Adapting to a new culture was easy, but forgetting his own was not.
On Thursday evening, Rahimi was one of the several Iranian students on campus who celebrated their heritage during the 12th annual Iranian Cultural Show, hosted by the Iranian Student Group at UCLA. The event aimed to teach Iranian and non-Iranian students about traditional Persian culture practices.
The Iranian Cultural Show is also meant to celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which marks the beginning of spring.
The show took place at the Freud Playhouse and featured several traditional Iranian dances as well as music, poetry and a theater performance. The show included two special performances by the UCLA Traditional Persian Music Ensemble and Shahrzad Sepanlou, an Iranian-born singer and UCLA alumna.
The performance incorporated five dances, each in a different style. Originating in different parts of Iran, the dances were meant to teach students about the Iranian culture.
During a modern style dance portion of the event, eight students took the stage wearing glittering dresses in the colors of the Iranian flag – red, white and green.
The dances incorporate elements of traditional Persian music infused with pop songs, which left members of the audience cheering and clapping along to the beat.
The show was funded through fundraising, donations from members of the Iranian Student Group and the Farhang Foundation, among other sources, Rahimi said.
Faraz Behrooz, a member of the Iranian Student Group who moved to the United States from Iran in 2008 at the age of 16, helped plan the logistics of the event.
Behrooz, a fourth-year mathematics and economics student, said he hopes the show portrays the rich culture in its entirety.
After intermission, the show returned with one more dance performance, followed by the Traditional Persian Music Ensemble. The closing act featured Sepanlou.
Sepanlou, who emigrated from Iran to the United States when she was 11 years old, graduated from UCLA and began pursuing her singing career.
Spepanlou said she likes to address social issues through her music, such as her experiences as an immigrant. Though she sings in Farsi, she characterizes her music as a modern blend of pop rock tunes.
The show also included a poetry performance completely in Farsi by Sharareh Koufigar, a third-year astrophysics student and Yeganeh Amini, a second-year bioengineering student. Koufigar and Amini read a series of love poems by Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet.
Koufigar, who was born and raised in Iran and moved to the United States at 18, said she loves everything about her culture.
“I’m counting the days to go back (to Iran),” Koufigar said.
Several students performed a skit addressing issues of identity among Iranian youth who immigrated to the United States. Students presented a series of narrations based on real interviews with Iranian students who had come to the United States.
For Rahimi, who moved to the Unites States when he was 9, dancing in the show was a way for him to celebrate his culture and experiences as an Iranian-American.
As the show recognized the intricacies of Iranian culture, Sepanlou performed to happy tunes with high tempos.
“This is immensely important to ground us, to go back to our roots,” Sepanlou said.