TORONTO, Ontario. – Laurel Victoria Gray, Artistic Director of Washington DC’s Silk Road Dance Company, received the prestigious Arash Award at the closing gala of Toronto’s Tirgan Festival, the world’s largest Iranian cultural celebration, held July 21-24, 2011. The honor is bestowed on leading artists and literary figures in Iranian culture. Gray is the first American of non-Iranian descent to receive thisaward.
Known for her innovative choreographies based on the movement vocabulary of traditional Persian and Central Asian dance forms, Laurel Victoria Gray actively promotes understanding of the Islamic world through her cultural presentations, performances, and lectures. She founded the Silk Road Dance Company in 1995; the ensemble has since performed throughout the US as well as in Qatar and Uzbekistan. At the invitation of the Tirgan Organizing Committee, Silk Road Dance Company presented several programs at this year’s festival. Tirgan 2011 showcased the talents of over 150 Iranian artists, many of whom traveled thousands of miles to attend the festival. Exemplary performances in music, dance and theatre were presented, and world class masterpieces in cinema and the visual arts were made available to the public.
The Arash Award is named for the legendary Persian archer who, during a dispute between Persian and non-Persian peoples, put his soul into a magical arrow destined to peaceably mark the boundaries between two kingdoms. The stunning statuette was designed by Iranian sculptor Ahmad Sakhavarz. Made from 24 carat gold-plated pewter, the Arash Award was manufactured by the same company that created the Oscars.