Pakistan News

Two-day dance festival kicks off

Two-day dance festival kicks off

KARACHI: The two-day Karachi Dance Festival 2017 started with a bang with the stage completely conquered by dancers doing Sindhi, Baloch and Punjabi folk dances, including the luddi and bhangra and with the whirling dervishes doing their thing along with classical dance such as Kathak, Thumri, Bharatnatyam, Odissi and contemporary style ballet, hip-hop, rock, tap and disco dancers all dancing away at the Arts Council of Pakistan here on Friday evening.

The event, said to be the first of its kind bringing together the best in dancing talent from all over the country, drew a huge crowd which quickly filled up the Arts Council’s open air theatre with many left to watch the performances on the big screen set up outside. It was heartening for the dancers to see such a huge turnout appreciating their talent.

“Dance is not just a craft or skill. It is a higher art, which opens up the mind,” said classical dancer Sheema Kermani, during a panel discussion about dance and how it is viewed in Pakistan, moderated by Marvi Mazhar ahead of the performances.

Speaking about how she learnt the art, Sheema-Ji said that she still felt like a student. “The learning never ends,” she said. “I have been teaching dance for 40 years. Ghanshyam Sahib was my first guru. He used to keep his doors open for all with something or the other, be it dance, yoga or anything else. Spending so much time there, we, his students, became like a part of his family,” she added.

“Then when I started teaching, I also created a space for whoever was interested in learning. If you are tired of working out on your dance techniques, then you can sit back and watch others practice, or you can read books if you like as you open up your mind,” she said.

Adnan Jahangir, a Sufi/folk dancer from the National College of Arts in Lahore, said the classical dancers in Pakistan were so few that they could be counted on the fingertips. “There are no shortcuts to learning dance but our young generation is rather impatient,” he said.

Wahab Shah, another expert on dance, said: “The performing arts provide you mental peace and the power to deal with life’s challenges. You learn when to use the right energy at the right time. Dance takes you to that level of ecstasy where you find yourself in a happy place.”

Amna Mawaz, who was also there from Islamabad to teach dance enthusiasts a few basic steps in Kathak dance, said that art could change society. “We need more artists to bring a positive change in our currently intolerant society,” she said.

Mohammad Ahmed Shah, president of the Arts Council, said: “There is dance in our soul but we don’t realise it. Don’t you sing and dance when you are happy? Don’t you sing and dance at weddings of your loved ones? And yet you think that dance is prohibited and build a narrative about it. The truth is that we all want to dance when we are happy. It is a part of our soul.”

He said that he was planning an International Dance Festival at the Arts Council next year.

The chief guest on the occasion, Sindh Minister for Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, Syed Sardar Ali Shah, pointed out that dance had been a part of our culture since time immemorial. “Moenjodaro’s dancing girl statue is proof of this,” he said. “Dance is hidden in our happiness, in our smile. It cannot be cut out from our spirit. I even said this after the explosion during a dhamal [mystic dance] in Sehwan and I say it again now that our reply to a dhamaka [explosion] is with the dhamal,” he said.

The festival concludes on Saturday.

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2017

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