Norooz, Iranian New Year celebration review


The Vice President, President, Dean of Engineering, a professor of engineering and the advisor for engineering were all called on stage to learn some standard Persian dance moves, taught by the co-host and comedian Tehran Von Ghasri.

Aemili Lipzinski, Pulse Editor

This past weekend the Iranian Community at Michigan Tech threw a New Year’s celebration in the MUB Ballroom. The event went from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and was well attended by nearly three hundred people. Comedian Tehran Von Ghasri was invited to perform and sort of co-hosted the event with a variety of members from the Iranian Community.

The event was informational and beautiful with colorful lights, beautiful dance costumes and music with a contagious beat.

My plus one and I found ourselves feeling slightly underdressed at this performance as the men were wearing nicer pants and button down shirts and women all wore dresses or other fancier attire to complement the celebration. It wasn’t so fancy that we got weird looks for our more casual appearance, but you wouldn’t have felt out of place in your Sunday best either.

The night started out with plates of Persian cuisine including Aush, a lentil soup made with lentils, pinto beans, chickpeas, spinach, parsley, onion, garlic and noodles which was hearty and savory, as well as a seasoned rice, green bean, and beef blend that was lighter and delicious called Loobia Polo or green beans rice. Meat options included joojeh kabab, or chicken kabab, made with saffron and lemon juice and was so perfectly seasoned that it made your mouth water just to have it near you. Another option was beef which tasted like a hamburger without the bun but was rolled into a sort of log — not like meatloaf, more like a hot dog shaped hamburger.

There was also a variety of vegetarian options with veggie kababs and seasoned rice without beef in it and falafel among other things. Finding a table was difficult as we had arrived late to the party, but everyone was having a good time, and we did eventually find a table to sit at. Coffee and hot water were available at stations around the room, and, on the tables, attendees were supplied with ice water or lemonade to go with their meals.

After dinner was finished, the waitstaff brought out dessert platters with delicious ginger flavored hard biscuits with sesame seeds on them and a variety of other treats whose names I do not know. One such dessert was a small and fluffy mound that was like a gentle and nutty cotton candy compressed into the shape of a truffle. There were also brightly colored candy-coated almonds and an almond bar that looked amazing.

The performances began with the comedian, Tehran, coming out and doing a set right off the bat. His performance focused on names and his own split background being half black and half Persian.

He told a few jokes in Farsi and made cultural references that anyone could laugh at that perfectly illustrated the differences between American and Persian culture while skillfully dispelling some of the common misconceptions about Iranians.

Following his act, Sahba Motallebi a professional tar and setar player came onto the stage and played an improvised piece that was energetic and flowing. It wrapped around the room and cycled back around to the artist in a way that standard American music simply does not do.

In addition, the piece included a variety of banjo-like sounds mixed with the elegant fades of a harp. She also played a composition of hers that honored Norooz and the coming New Year. The tar is a long-necked instrument made of wood that is similar to the guitar but uses concave wood to echo sound rather than a hollow guitar base.

After this, Tehran came back on to follow up and had the President of Michigan Tech, Vice President, Dean of Engineering, a professor of engineering and the advisor of engineering come on stage and taught them two simple moves to get them dancing along with the traditional upbeat Persian music.

Tehran encouraged the audience to find a beat during the next performance and to clap along with it and then introduced a group of four Iranian dancers who came on stage and performed a beautiful traditional Persian dance. Their dance costumes along with the strong beat of the music and the energy that swept through the room were so entrancing it was like watching colorful silk scarves fly through the air.

Tehran came on again, asking if there were any people from other cultures in the audience besides Persian and complimented the people from India and Saudi Arabia for attending the event. When interviewed after the celebration he said, “Student involvement is the best way to increase diversity [on campuses]. [Encouraging] individuals to go to each other’s events and to support each other.”

Tehran has a large cultural following in his fanbase and seeks to draw people together with his comedy and by encouraging them to choose love and education first. Learning about one another’s traditions, celebrations and cultures is one of the most fascinating and effective ways to dispel stereotypes and lies.

The show also included a performance from the 47 North Belly Dance group which is a fusion belly dance troupe based in Hancock. They performed a lively and entertaining number to Persian music that fit perfectly with the atmosphere and life of the event.

Attendees thought for a moment that the event was being wrapped up with our host coming back on stage to pull the tickets for the raffle, generously donated by Econofoods.

Two winners received a $25 gift card to Econofoods, and $100 were left over in, again, $25 gifts for the last four raffle winners, donated from the Cultural Events Fund which were actually used to bribe a member of the audience who had performed last year to come on stage and perform a magic trick, despite the fact that he had not prepared an act for this year’s show.

The card trick was baffling, even with the magician explaining that he was doing everything on purpose and going in slow motion and his predictions were perfect. The sleight of hand trick was not on the cards, however, but on the money he was being bribed with.

He got back to his seat and was told to check his gifts and instead of $100 received an index card with ‘fool’ written on it because it is apparently also customary to play practical jokes on each other in the Persian version of April Fools.

Tehran then wrapped everything up and brought a ton of people on stage, every person who made the celebration a success and had the technical stagehands put the Persian music on again, inviting everyone to come on stage and dance.

We managed to snag an interview with Tehran, and he emphasized the importance of drawing people from different cultures closer together. “That’s why I do comedy,” he said.

He explained that events like Norooz bring people together from all walks of life. It gives them the opportunity to meet people of different cultures in a friendly and casual setting which allows them to see and experience the traditions of that culture in a genuine and welcoming way.

Tehran performed at the Norooz celebration about two years ago and came to the show at Tech instead of a different gig that he had booked because he just had to see what this little college town was all about.

He was pleasantly surprised to find such a diverse campus in the middle of nowhere with students who are so willing to learn and so eager to be a part of diversity.

This year’s show might be hard to beat, what with the top administration of the school dancing together to Persian music, but it will certainly be worth the money and effort to come out for next year’s celebration!