On September 18, a discerning audience was gifted with a special performance at the National Museum during the 64th presentation of “Nupur Beje Jaye”, a bi-monthly programme organised by Shadhona Shangskritik Mondal to promote performing arts in Bangladesh.
Shadhona had invited internationally-acclaimed dancer and performing artiste Sashar Zarif, founder and director of Sashar Zarif Dance Theatre in Toronto, Canada, to perform for the Bangladeshi audience.
Sashar Zarif is a multi-disciplinary performing artiste, educator, and researcher whose artistic practice encourages a union of creative and cultural perspectives. His interests are identity, globalisation, and cross-cultural collaborations. His practice delves in the artistry and history of traditional, ritualistic, and contemporary dance and music of the Near Eastern and Central Asian regions.
“Dance, to me, is a tool. What we need is inspiring content; stories that can be wholly and perfectly told only through dance. Dancing is an experience, not a performance. This whole idea of 'performance' is a residue of colonialism. Traditionally, we don't have 'audience', we have 'participants', who give you support while you are dancing, they are a part of the whole experience. The dancers here too, like anywhere in the world, want to break out of the mould and make dance a greater, more spiritual journey,” says Sashar.
Titled, “Dance of Dilnawaz”, the performance was an exploration of Urdu short story “Dilnawaz” by Rahat Ara Begum, a pioneering Urdu writer of 20th century Kolkata. The text is based on Sufi philosophy. Shadhona and Sashar Zarif together presented this creative project.
The following day, Sashar held a demonstration and lecture on the Dance of Mugham at Jatra Biroti in Banani. “Mugham” is one of the many folk musical compositions from Azerbaijan. Sashar's Dance of Mugham is the result of over twelve years of research and reconstruction. His aim was to re-establish the nearly lost element of dance back into the ancient form of Mugham, through expanding an understanding of the relationships between the poetry, music and dance.