Apart from being heavily tabooed, classical dance suffers due to lack of patronage and institutions imparting the art with certified degrees. A solo performance by Bharat Natyam dancer Amna Mawaz Khan at the PNCA on Friday however proved to be a ray of hope.
Indu Mitha is one of very few classical dance teachers in the country who has been striving to keep the flame of the ancient performing art alive since the last 60 years. Although she has taught scores of youngsters, few choose to pursue classical dance professionally. Khan, who trained under her for 10 years, showcased her “Arangetram,” which is a classical dancer’s first solo performance to mark the beginning of professional life. “Amna is my ray of hope; she plans on pursuing classical dance professionally. It is the ustad who introduces the student to the world,” said Mitha as she introduced Khan on stage for her first performance.
Khan dressed in a sari with flowers in her hair exuded maturity and finesse. Her first performance managed to captivate the audience at the very first beat of the tabla. Of her six performances, three showcased her technical abilities while three consisted of traditional compositions complete with abhinaya (facial expressions).
“Sola singhar,” a performance in which she adorned herself with makeup and braided her hair, Khan expressed pleasure in her beauty routine through her mastery over facial expressions. “The expressive dances I performed are very traditional; it’s either a story of a young girl awaiting her lover or of her adorning herself,” said Khan.
With every thud resounding on the wooden floor, Khan diligently matched each beat of tabla with her ghungro, shifting from slow to fast-paced beats. From expressing concern over the looming thunderstorm as she awaits her lover in the performance titled, “Saavan,” to demure, shy expressions while she wears anklets thinking of her lover, Khan’s simple honesty in her performances managed to shine through.
Inspired by classical dance at the age of 10 when she witnessed a performance by Naheed Siddiqui, Khan knew her calling was classical dance. “I joined Indu Mitha at the age of 11. She’s been my teacher since,” stated Khan. “Although I did learn beginner’s Khatak and Udhay Shankar’s modern Indian dances I’m a professional Bharat Natyam dancer.”
The young dancer received a standing ovation along with Mitha as she took her final bow.
The event ended with a rasam (tradition) as Mitha handed her student an earthen lamp and a garland.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2013.
Correction: In an earlier version of this story, Arangetram was erroneously mentioned as Arangepram. Also, the performance titled Saavan was mentioned as Barsaat. The errors have been fixed.
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