Pakistan has some outstanding choreographers who do wonders when given an opportunity. However, in the last 67 years, the country hasn’t established a dance form that could be branded as Pakistani dance. World Dance Day seems like an appropriate occasion to hear from choreographers on the future of dance in Pakistan.
A lot of work is being done in Pakistan when it comes to dancing, but very few people are creating original material, which could be termed as a uniquely Pakistani dance, the country’s veteran choreographers believe.
Vicky Samrat, a young choreographer from a four generation dancing family, said: “A lot of young people want to learn and excel in dancing, but there are still some social barriers. The irony is that if we label a certain dance as a body-shaping movement, the same people who oppose the dance start supporting it.”
Vicky Samrat, son of the late Khanu Samrat and nephew of Pappu Samrat, has special skills in Kathak and Salsa. “The future of dancing is bright in Pakistan but the youth quite often want to learn it through shortcuts instead of putting in hard work,” he said.
When asked why Pakistani dancers couldn’t establish their own genre in dancing, Lollywood’s senior choreographer Pappu Samrat said: “Choreographers are given very limited time here. There isn’t any time for rehearsing. Indians excel because Bollywood directors give a free hand to choreographers and over the years, Indian dancing has won a status for itself. Here, not many films are produced and directors don’t let the choreographers work freely. Dancing is poetry of the body, but here it often becomes an exhibition of the body.”
The Samrat family earned dancing fame through Ashiq Hussain Samrat, the grandfather of Pappu Samrat and the great grandfather of Vicky Samrat. Ashiq Hussain was born in Rajashthan, India but moved to Pakistan after partition. His son Akbar Hussain Samrat worked for many famous Pakistani films. Khanu Samrat and Pappu Samrat are the sons of Akbar Hussain Samrat. Now, Vicky Samrat is the fourth generation of the Samrat family to study dancing.
“People have passion for dancing in Pakistan. For a normal course of dancing, we charge Rs25,000 per month and people are ready to pay this amount. It takes at least a year to become a good performer on stage. We don’t take fees from the talented and deserving candidates, but in return, they perform with us on some shows and we don’t pay them for that,” Pappu said.
“Dancing is an art and if a few movements are not rightly learnt in the beginning, it becomes difficult to train a beginner. Many people have been using our family name to mint money from those who want to learn dancing. Sometimes students come to us and do entirely wrong steps and when we ask who taught them, they say a choreographer of Samrat family,” said Vicky.
Wahab Shah, another young dancer, who moved to Pakistan from Australia in 2006 to teach dancing, said: “We are producing many dancers these days but a very few of them are original. I came here to introduce a new form of dance, which could be termed Pakistani dance. We have very good music of our own and an excellent treasure of poetry as well. We just have to do the right kind of dancing to suit that poetry and our dancing will be known the world over as a unique type of dance form.”
Sonu Dangerous, a choreographer working for different television channels in Pakistan, said: “Choreographers do what people demand. Give us time and we can be thoroughly original. Choreographers have to understand poetry well and act accordingly to prepare a good piece of dancing.”
Shoaib Jazzy, a Lahore-based choreographer who choreographs wedding functions, said: “A lot of people we work for want their functions to be choreographed on the lines of Indian films. When people want Indian style dancing, it becomes difficult for us to produce something original.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2011.