Dancing away from Lahore to Turkey

The festival included performances from every country.

Sher Khan July 24, 2013
A dance group of 16 young girls traveled all the way to Turkey to represent Pakistan and its culture. PHOTO: PUBLICITY


Amidst religious extremism and security threats, where cultural practices have little chance to thrive, a dance troupe of 16 young girls from Lahore Grammar School (LGS) braved representing Pakistan at the 8th International Lake Festival in Turkey. Adnan Jahangir, a renowned Kathak dancer and Madiha Gul of the Lahore-based production house Mishermayal, led the troupe. Her group Mishermayal, named after a musical note connoting the ‘coming together’, was invited to participate in the festival last year.

Each year, the festival selects 11 countries to promote their language of music and dance and is hosted at the Kucukcekmece Lake Amphitheatre in Istanbul. Gul asserts that the festival was a great opportunity for the local talent to represent its country and culture positively. “It was a very prestigious experience since we were representing Pakistan. You can tell this is what’s missing here — there is little space for personal growth and people are not enjoying that. It shows how much should be done to promote culture,” says Gul.

A dance group of 16 young girls traveled all the way to Turkey to represent Pakistan and its culture. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

The students, who were selected from a dance and music programme held at LGS, did not have any professional training whatsoever. Hence, in order to prepare for the prestigious festival, the troupe hired Jahangir. The famed kathak and folk dancer has trained under well-known classical dancer Bina Jawwad and has given several notable performances internationally including India, Italy, USA and the UK.

Being a teacher and choreographer, Jahangir said that the team had exceeded expectations competing strongly against professional delegations. “People over there were rather surprised by their preparation and the way the girls had carried themselves throughout the performances without any professional training,” he says. Jahangir points out that the school was teaching dance as a subject that can help one with life in general and believes that such schools are doing a great job of providing space for training and cultural promotion.

The festival included performances from every country on both the opening and closing night. The dancers performed in the presence of the mayor of Kucukcekmece, Aziz Yeniay, and a relatively large audience. The troupe from LGS performed a sufi folk and sufi soul dance. During the rest of the week long festival, they performed different regional dances including bhangra. After their performances, the teams organised a special night of cultural exchange where Jahangir also did a kathak performance.

Jahangir feels that the trip offered a much-needed chance to promote a positive image of Pakistan and dispel any existing stereotypes. “While interacting with other countries, we would be asked, ‘how can you perform in this environment?’ and I would respond simply by saying that this is only a phase. Our real culture accommodates art,” he shares.

A dance group of 16 young girls traveled all the way to Turkey to represent Pakistan and its culture. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

Jahangir emphasises that it is highly important that dance is promoted along the right terms in order to help preserve and sustain culture. He says that in the current environment, dance has rather been used as a vehicle to promote vulgarity, in turn, damaging the reputation of cultural dance forms.

“The vulgarity promoted through dance in the form of stage theatre has tarnished the reputation of dance. So while we have a lot of hidden talented artists, it isn’t so evident on the surface of it all,” says Jahangir. “Those who actually want to move ahead to promote the arts will have to suffer, but then again it has its rewards too.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2013.

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Travel_Tart | 10 years ago | Reply

@ Pakhtoon Take a chill pill. .

karachi walay | 10 years ago | Reply

@Pukhtoons: oooooh !! we've come accross a paradox here haven't we? You claim that you don't objectify women by.......giving them...YOUR voice and setting boundries for them to follow, as one does to a pet or a child. And ofcourse you being men and all, GIVE THEM dignity. I mean they're women right? They can't in any Godforsaken way have their own will to dance or carry their dignity. Peace out bro.

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