Vajpayee wanted Uma to dance to his peace poem
By Anjum Gill
LAHORE Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee asked Indian Kathak dancer Dr Uma Sharma to dance to his poem Hum Jang Na Honay Dengay during her visit to Pakistan, she told Daily Times on Saturday.
At Alhmara, the audience enjoyed a magical performance by the celebrated dancer. The Pakistani crowd erupted in a spontaneous standing ovation at the end of her performance.
Ms Sharma gave a mesmeric 90-minute performance and made history as the first Indian classical dancer to perform publicly in Pakistan.
She was invited by the All Pakistan Music Conference and her visit was arranged by the South Asia Fraternity. Ms Sharma danced poetry in tarana with her rhythmic footwork and facial expressions. She will go on to perform in the National Library auditorium in Islamabad on April 20 and 21.
Clad in green churidar pyjama, dupatta and green and biscuit colour pishwaz, she was accompanied by Ustad Mubarik Ali Khan on tabla, Khalid Mustafa on sitar and young vocalist Imran Khan, all from New Delhi.
All of them performed par excellence. All Pakistan Music Conference Secretary General Hayat Ahmed Khan said, “I have never seen anything like this before. All of them performed so well that I was enthralled.”
Dr Sharma started with Adhuram Madhuram and then dance to Neeraj Gopal Dass’ poem Koi Nahin Paraya, Mera Ghar Sara Sansar.
She then did the Nayaka Bhed, three characters of a woman. Her fourth item was tarana, which was all about technique, a question-answer session between the rhythm of her feet and the tabla. She chose two verses from the poetry of Ghalib and Iqbal.
Her choice of poetry was aimed at mending fences between Pakistan and India. She is here with a peace message to “reduce distance and end hostility”.
“These are the messages that I deliver through dance. I strongly believe in peace and people to people contact and exchange of artistes. What we artistes can do no minister or politician can. This wall should fall down now,” she said.
“Contrary to what I’d heard about Pakistan, I was amazed to see young girls performing Kathak dance at an open air theatre,” she said, referring to the Lahore Grammar School tribute to dance director and teacher Amy Minwala.
She regretted that she could only get a seven-day visa to Pakistan. “During these seven days, I will not be able to perform in Karachi, which I really want to,” she said. “However, when I go to Islamabad, I’ll ask the authorities to extend my visa and that of my companions.”
During President Pervez Musharraf’s visit to India, Ms Sharma surprised the president by asking him why he hated dance. Somewhat taken aback, Mr Musharraf said that he would love to see her perform.
She will be performing something new for the people of Pakistan on April 18, a solo Bbhavanritya, a dance based on the life and works of classic Urdu language poet Ghalib.
Ms Sharma’s forte is in translating poets Kalidas, Vidyapati, Ghalib, Tagore, lqbal, Faiz and Bachan into dance, but her favourite poet is the immortal Ghalib.
Ms Sharma has received much critical recognition, such as the Padma Bhoshan, Sangeet Natak Academy and Sahitya Kala Parishad awards. She has been trained by the greatest gurus of the Kathak tradition such as Shambhu Maharaj of the Lucknow Gharana and Sunder Prasad of the Jaipur Gharana.
Kathak dancing originated in the north and at first was very similar to the Bharatha-Natyam. Persian and Muslim influences later altered the dance from a temple ritual to courtly entertainment. The influence of the Mughal tradition is evident in this dance form and it has a distinctive Hindu-Muslim texture.
The word ‘Kathak’, derived from ‘Katha’, literally means storyteller. In ancient times, storytellers used song and dance to embellish their narration. This took the form of Kathakalakshepam and Harikatha in southern India, and the form of Kathak in the north.
Around the 15th century, the dance form underwent a drastic transformation due to the influence of Mughal dance and music. By the 16th century, the churidar pyjama had become the staple attire of a Kathak dancer. The dances are performed straight-legged and the ankle bells worn by the dancers adeptly controlled. Kathak has an exciting and entertaining quality with intricate footwork and rapid pirouettes being the dominant and most endearing features of this style. The costumes and themes of these dances are often similar to those in Mughal miniature paintings.