Meet the performers: Djahan Manuela Mazhari Perez

Djahan Manuela Mazhari Perez (born 1970) is the daughter of a Colombian mother and an Iranian father. She left Iran when she was four and grew up mostly in Paris. Jahan is trained in post-modern dance, physical theatre, Indian dance and martial arts and now has been living in the Netherlands for about twenty years, where she has had three children. She works as a performer and teacher and studies Ayurveda.


“During the first two days of rehearsal for House of Strength, I was ill. Yet these were very inspiring and positive days. When you’re feeling weak and tired, there is nowhere to hide. This resulted in powerful things. Roshanak also looks very closely at who you are and what you can give. In her work and that of other Iranian dancers and choreographers, I feel that there is a history that connects us. Unconsciously in how we dance and in what we create, there is a cry for freedom.

In my opinion, you gain strength through harmony between your values and the life you lead. You can’t do that without love. Love gives you strength and the courage to continue. For me, strength is also the ability to hold on to an opinion or position despite others not understanding it, but also the ability to acknowledge your mistakes and misunderstandings and to sincerely apologise.”


“Rituals give meaning to the meaningless. You can turn anything into something special. Rituals recognise the mystery of life. They bring you closer to your feelings.

I have been practising Kalaripayattu for about twenty years, a martial art that originated in Kerala in southern India. It has many similarities with the Zurkhaneh. It is physically demanding work, but also spiritual and supportive for each other. I find it healing for everyone.”


“To me inclusion means: accepting everyone without judgement in advance. However much I would like to silence or change some people, such as racists, for example, I hope that through open communication we can reach each other and learn from each other. At the root of someone’s behaviour, extremist opinions or violent actions there is often fear. It may look like hatred, but actually, unconsciously or consciously, a deep fear is the cause.”

Curious about…

“I am curious to see how we will find a common language in the rehearsal process, being quite different dancers. And also, whether the audience can identify with this search and the desire for a ‘house of strength’.”