(from France 24, 2/13; Photo: France 24; via the Drudge Report.)

French-Iranian Rana Gorgani, 37, used to think of whirling as something that should remain behind closed doors JOEL SAGET AFP

One of the world’s few female whirling dervishes, Rana Gorgani has opened up Sufism to a wider audience, and is now making surprising spiritual connections over Zoom thanks to the pandemic.

French-Iranian Gorgani, 37, used to think of whirling — a sort of “moving meditation” through which Sufis seek to commune with the divine — as something that should remain behind closed doors.

Despite growing up in France, she was initiated into the practice while visiting Iran, a place where Sufis often face persecution by the authorities and dancing in general is frowned upon.

She had never intended to perform the whirling in public — that was something normally reserved for men.

But a decade ago, she decided she wanted to share its beauty with a festival audience in Montpellier.

“After some minutes, I panicked and stopped for a few seconds. It felt like I was breaking some rule,” she recalled. “But I started turning again, and heard a roar of applause, and I told myself ‘everything is OK’.”

When people came up to her after the show, with tears in their eyes, to thank her — she realised this was something she wanted to pursue full-time.

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