Kathak dance: In the mystical world of Nahid Siddiqui

Acclaimed classical exponent and her students perform to Bulleh Shah’s poetry.

The soul-stirring performance by Siddiqui and her students at the PNCA on Friday. PHOTO: MYRA IQBAL/EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: In a one of its kind performance, renowned kathak dancer Nahid Siddiqui enthralled audience at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) on Saturday evening. Subtle yet powerful, her stream of postures, expression and footwork had stories to tell.

The evening began with “Maati kadam karendee yaar” — a haunting kaafi by sufi poet Bulleh Shah about the complexity of earth — with Imran Jaffery on the vocals, Hassan Mohyeuddin on the tabla and Siddiqui reciting.

Nahid’s students — Rachel Waterman, Rehan Bashir, Mehreen Jillani, Ayesha Sarfraz, Luna Holden, Hira Nabi and Suyyaiya Din — enlivened the aura with subtle expression, balanced postures and coordinated footwork.

Clad in earthen tone blouses and sarongs, the dancers lit up an otherwise dusky stage to the rhythms of Patiala Gharana in a haunting piece that transgressed from dark to meditative, maintaining the kind of poise and postural regality that lends itself to the style of classical dance.

The second performance, “Tere Ishq Nachaya Thaya Thaya” employed Siddiqui’s graceful expression and strong stage presence. Vocalists Chand and Suraj from the Patiala Gharanah, Bakshi sahib on the harmonium, Zohaib Hassan on sarangi and Mohyeuddin to the tabla had the audience roaring. Siddiqui’s frame exuded complete submission to the enormity of existence, pirouetting on the stage in a spiritual quest for her creator, her elated expression at an ease that transported the audience to a similar ethereal state.

As they performed Shah’s “Pani Bhar Bhar Gayian Sabhe”, Siddiqui danced to the famous kaafi, which narrated the time spent in one’s life preparing and waiting for their turn to depart.

In a solo performance, she described how a beat repeated thrice resembles the leap of a tiger and the jump of a deer, followed by the sound of ghungroo, which was inspired by birds and rain and portrayed how raindrops are felt on the body. The piece was a stunning demonstration of the musician’s quest to find the “sum” of a beat, the progression of rhythm becoming a mere struggle for its location.

After the finale, Siddiqui got a standing ovation for her spellbinding performance. “Nahid is a legend and her performance just takes you to another world,” said audience member Arshiya Jamal. “I wish we have more such evenings in Islamabad,” she added.

For her part, Siqqidui said that classical artists need more exposure in the country. “Although resources abroad are awesome, my love for this art has made me stay in this country and create awareness among the youth about this dying art,” she said.

However, she was not free of critique for the PNCA in front of the large crowd. “What is being presented here (in these halls) is not what I would like to be representing Pakistan with,” she said.

Kathak, she said, is known for its vocabulary, rhythmic footwork must be taught to the youth and they should learn about this art which is out heritage and culture. “This is Pakistan, what we saw on stage today, not what we see in the news or see on television,” said Asian Study Group (ASG) President Parveen Malik. Organised by the ASG, the show was dedicated to Faizaan Peerzada for his commitment to promoting performing arts in Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2013.



Indian | 9 years ago | Reply

@al waheed: "I didn’t know that Indian classical dances like Kathak are still consided part of Pakistan culture"

Can you enlighten me what is Pakistani culture?

gp65 | 9 years ago | Reply

@Stranger: I agree with you that everyone can own one's culture regardless of where the heritage came from. But in recent time under Wahabi influence there is a trend to reject Indian culture by branding it Hindu culture. That is probably where @al-waheed is coming from. Thankfully i India we have no desire to reject our shared culure and heritage. In India no one rejects Urdu but in Pakistan people reject Hindi. Likewise Basant is rejected.

Now you are true that Kathak is now a secular dance form but it did originate in Hindu temples and the root word is katha which means story and kathak means narrator of story. It told tales of radha and Krishna love. A lot of the kathak gat can be traced to this e.g. bansuri gat, matki gat and so on.

@Sam: Of course just as Indians sing Bada Khayal which was introduced by Amir Khusro and use tabla which was also his innovation, it would be perfectly okay in my mind to for Pakistanis to acknowledge kathak as shared heritage. Don't however change history to do so. Kathak originated in northern India as part of the Bhakti movement. The 3 main gharanas in kathak are Banaras, Jaipur and Lucknow. From the temples when it came to tthe Mughal courts, it absorbed Persian influences. But definitely it did not originate in present day Punjab and SInd.

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