By Salman Shakil Sheikh
Lahore – Classical dance is considered a lost art in Pakistan but there are a couple of passionate artists who are keeping this form of dance alive in the country, and they are very optimistic about its success in future. Sunaina Khan, nick name Soni Khan, is one of those passionate artists.
Speaking to Dubai-based The UAE News, Khan talked about her 10-year journey of kathak dance. The technique of kathak is inspired from Mughal architecture and revolves around straight lines and circles, she explained.
Khan advised young people to work hard and don’t look for short cuts to get success in their life and career. She also emphasised that the performing arts should be introduced at college and university level.
Talking about the headwinds for classical dance, she said: “After the former president of Pakistan Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq’s ban on classical dance on state TV and public events, our generation lost its own culture and pop culture came into our industry. From that time interest of people diverted more towards Western / modern dances. In these years of teaching and performing kathak, I did not see any prominent name in kathak dance.”
Following are the excerpts from the interview:
Q: When did you start thinking about Kathak dance?
Ans: I was fond of classical dance since my childhood. So, after completing my graduation in Human Psychology and Social Work, I decided to pursue my passion and started learning it from qualified teachers.
Q: Why did you choose Kathak dance?
Ans: I believe kathak dance is natural compare to other dance forms either they are classical or modern. I was fortunate to get best teachers in Lahore with the passage of time. I tried to observe the gharanas of kathak dance.
Q: Who are the popular classic dancers in Pakistan in your opinion?
Ans: If we talk about Pakistan, Madam Nahid Siddiqui is the finest kathak dancer. I was lucky enough that I got a chance to attend some of her workshops.
I started learning kathak from master Sajjad Hussain Kathak Kalawant, Patyala Gharana. Mam Aimi Minwala & mam Zarin Panna are the pioneers of classical dance in Pakistan’s film industry. Mam Bina Jawwad who is a student of Maharaj Ghulam Hussain Kathak gave me most of her time to understand and master this art. All of them are still teaching at various institutes.
Q: What kind of support should the government extend to artists in Pakistan?
Ans: The government should come forward and extend helping hand to the promotion of classical dance and dancers for taking it to the next level. The authorities concerned should introduce its theory and techniques at college and university levels by hiring the teachers who devoted their whole life to promote this art. It’s a complete art in which you learn many things. The government supported seminars, and discussion sessions should be held for its awareness.
Q: How do you see the future of classical dance and Kathak dance in Pakistan?
Ans: I am performing for the last ten years, and through dance, I educate the youngsters the message of peace. It’s not only an art but also a healthy exercise. Our generation is lazy enough that they are more engaged in non-physical activities because of the advancement of technologies such as smartphones and tablets. I would like to invite young generation to come and learn this art form and own our legacy.
Q: In addition to dance, what are your other hobbies?
Ans: I write articles on different issues for different websites. I am a huge fan of World music, and kathak helped me a lot to develop a taste in music and a sense of understanding it. I participate actively in different social issues meetings.
Q: Do you believe it’s difficult for females to pursue their passion in any field either showbiz, politics, etc.?
Ans: There is no second opinion that we live in a male-dominated World, so it’s hard sometimes for women to work in any industry. Harassment cases are normal here in Pakistan. But we do have many examples that women made their places in every field. Therefore, females have to be strong enough to face all kinds of situations and cope with them amicably.