KARACHI: Classical dancer, social activist and founder of the cultural action group Tehrik-e-Niswan, Sheema Kermani organized the debut of her young disciple Anjaleen Maryam Agrawalla at the Alliance Française.
Anjaleen was six years old when she came to train with Kermani. During this time, she learned various classical dance forms such as Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kathak, as she also joined Tehrik-i-Niswan and performed in their many events and festivals.
As her guru Kermani explains, a student dancer’s first solo dance performance after years of training is called an “arangetram.” It is organized by the guru to introduce the disciple to the public while giving blessings.
Sheema Kermani laments that the performing arts are dying in the country
As she guided the audience through the Friday night program, Kermani also shared memories from her own journey into classical dance. She said she started teaching ballet for free about 40 years ago in her mother’s garage.
“I had a lot of students at the beginning. But now, over time, I have fewer and fewer students and I often wonder why people here are so biased and narrow-minded in the arts? Why don’t they celebrate diversity? Why don’t they celebrate pluralism,” she asked.
She says she started learning ballet herself as a young girl when her mother found Mr and Mrs Ghanshyam, a couple from Calcutta, who had set up an institute for teaching dance and music. in Karachi.
“In the 1960s they had hundreds of students, but then they were forced out of Pakistan under the rule of Ziaul Haq. Unfortunately, few have been able to make dance their profession in this country. I was lucky to live off it,” she said.
“The performing arts are dying in this country. Dance and music are usually passed down from generation to generation. But today even my sitar player, a ustad, prefers his son to work in a hotel,” she said.
The young debutante dancer Anjaleen then took the stage holding flowers in her hands. She performed three salutations, to God, her guru and her audience while asking for forgiveness from Mother Earth for trampling on her as she danced the Pushpanjali.
Her performance consisted of Bharatanatyam dances, an ancient classical dance form from the subcontinent using hand gestures and facial expressions.
She performed seven dances including Alarippu, a rhythm-based dance that relaxes the mind and body for future dances, Jatiswaram, an abstract dance focusing on melody alone, Shabdam, a dance to a song, the Varnam, the main dance of the whole Bharatanatyam show, the Abhinaya, an intense dance, and the Tillana, a cheerful and lively dance.
Posted in Dawn, December 19, 2021