PRODIGIES OF RHYTHM | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 20, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 20, 2017

PRODIGIES OF RHYTHM

Art has always been engraved into our culture, literature and thoughts. One form of art that has especially been prominent in Bangladesh is dance; and it is certainly true that our land is full of talented and promising dancers. Unfortunately, classical dance isn't a form that is frequently practiced in Bangladesh, which leads to homegrown talents seeking the help of Indian maestros and gurus. Nonetheless, the fusion of classic and contemporary, especially combined with the plethora of young Bangladeshi dancers, is giving rise to a new era of dance that is simply glorious to behold. It is unfortunate that we had to pick only one dancer for the cover, but these young artists all have amazing skills in their craft. Star Showbiz introduces you to ten young dancers who have not only learned specific dance forms professionally, but have also made a name for themselves in various national and international stages. Rafi Hossain, Editor

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Chandra Tripura

Hometown: Chittagong Hill Tracts

Styles: Tripura, Chakma, Marma,
Shaotal

Inspirations: Mamata Shankar, Lubna Marium 

My cousin Sucharita Raoza (residing in France) was my first ever dance teacher back in Khagrachhari, followed by Rupna Tripura who was a teacher at Shilpokala Academy Kahgrachhari. Our dance was portrayed as a part of folk dance and we practiced it along with a touch of Kathak and Bharatnatyam. My father was the founding member of an NGO named 'Nabarang Kalyan Shomiti' which still exists. Along with many other programs there was one workshop named 'Katharak Mwsamwng', which was arranged to train students in our traditional dance form called 'Katharak', also known as Bottle Dance, which happens to be my favorite dance form as well. That workshop program inspired and created many dancers and still does so, and I am one of them.

I did not specifically choose any form of dancing to master. I have a sense of a lot of types, especially the ones offered in Bangladesh from Tripura, Chakma, Marma, Shaotal, etc. When I came to Dhaka I joined Chayanaut Vidyaton where I learned Manipuri along with Mou Das and Nilmoni Sinha, and Bharatnatyam under Muhammad Kazi Rokibul Haque Ripon. I also learned Kathak for quite a while from Kochi Rahman. I took a short course on contemporary dance style from Shadhona and was supervised by Spectrum Dance Theater. All these to flourish my knowledge, but never narrowed down to any specific form. Moreover, I am still trying my best to learn other dance forms offered in different communities. 

I am a founder member of a community called the 'Bangladesh Adibashi Cultural Forum', through which we wish to connect to every community to the root level, especially in Chittagong Hill Tracks. I am a choreographer and also a member of the executive body of this committee. Everybody is aware of the political instability in those areas but a very few are aware of the culture threat we are facing. Keeping this cultural movement in mind like Adibashi Dibosh along with other noticeable accidents and situations we have arranged Dance and Music Dramas in many districts along with Dhaka, and my future plan is to keep up our fight through dance. 


Abu Nayeem

Hometown: Borguna

Styles: Contemporary, Kathak

Inspiration: Akram Khan  
 

As a dancer, I always felt that versatility is crucial. I do Kathak as well as Contemporary dance forms, partially because it helps a lot when I am doing choreography. I initially started learning from Ziaur Rahman and Shadhona Rani Ghosh in Borguna Zila. In Dhaka, I learned from M.R Wasek and Ivan Shahriar Sohag. Lubna Apa (Lubna Marium) gave me a scholarship to learn at Shadhona. After that, I left for Kolkata to complete a one-year academic diploma on contemporary dance. My instructors were Dr. Mitul Sengupta and Ronnie Shambik Ghose.

I do not have any side-professions except for dance. Although it used to be very difficult to earn a decent living while doing only that, I would say that I am managing pretty well. If one puts enough effort into it, it is very possible to make a decent living as a professional dancer. Last year, I represented Bangladesh at the Gati Residency Dance Festival, an international festival in Delhi, where dancers from many countries performed. My absolute favorite dancer is Akram Khan, and I really admire what Shibli Mohammad sir and his group has done for years now. I also really love 'Amra Kojon' from Bogura, they are incredible as a team.     


Ashraful Alam

Hometown: Khidirpur, Netrokona

Style: '
Bouty', a variation of Lathi Khela 

The dance form that I perform has been passed down to me from my grandfather, Ahsanuddin Munshi. Our family has been doing 'Lathi Khela' for generations, but in our region it is known by many different names and forms. 'Bouty Khela', 'Kalajira', 'Manraji' and 'Daina' are variations of it. I am a construction worker by profession, and used to work in Singapore until very recently. I have a dance group in my village, and we move around performing in functions like 'musolmani', marriage functions and other social gatherings that people call us to. We travel around villages dancing, and we typically receive 5000 to 7000 taka for each performance. I would like to continue my craft for as long as I can. 


Tahnun Ahmedy

Hometown: Sylhet

Styles: Contemporary

Inspirations: Mikhail Baryshnikov, Lubna Marium

I initially started to learn dancing from Shishu Academy when I was little. I was there for three years, and then shifted to Wasek bhai (M.R Wasek). I performed a lot during that period of time. After that, I learned Kathak from Shibli Mohammad sir for two years. In 2013, I got a scholarship from Shadhona and went to Hridmosaic Institute in Kolkata for further training in a one-year certificate course for contemporary dance. After my term was finished, they offered me another two years of scholarship and I consented.

After I came back to Dhaka, I took dancing professionally. Even though I agree that the situation is better than it used to be, it is also true that we rely way too much on corporate shows to survive. It is possible for someone to only teach the art of dance for a living, but it is rare. You will see that dancers get a lot of funding both from the government and other organizations. Our government should step up in helping the further growth of dancing as a serious art. I have recently participated in the biennial Attakalari Festival in Bangalore. I plan to continue doing contemporary in the future, but I want to keep a strong classical base to it. I want to infuse the genre of folk into the stories of my choreography, and make it more Bangladesh-related to create a distinct genre that is recognizable worldwide.


Zuairiyah MoulI

Hometown: Sylhet

Style: Bharatnatyam

Inspiration: Amit Chowdhury

I like to identify myself as a Bharatanatyam dancer. I have been learning Bharatanatyam from Amit Chowdhury in Kolpotoru since the last five years, but I initially started learning dance from Chayanaut. When I started dancing, I never thought of taking it as a profession. I initially began because my mother really wanted me to learn dancing. Over time, I developed an irrevocable love for my craft as the beautiful geometric lines that Bharatanatyam operates in really had me gravitate towards it.  

One gripe that we have with our society is the fact that dancing isn't considered as a serious profession. I think it is up to us artists to rectify that point of view through hard work and dedication. In my opinion, a dancer should be taken as seriously as a doctor or an engineer. Another thing about Bangladesh is, we do not have any good documentation/books about dancing. What we read is almost always imported from outside. If we can come up with our own identity and documentation through local books, then I think many more people will gravitate towards the art of dancing.


Snata Shahrin

Hometown: Dhaka

Styles: Kathak

Inspiration: Shibli Mohammad 

Dancing was actually my mother's dream but she could not achieve it. So, like any other kid, I had it upon me. In 1994 my father took me to Shibli Mohammad and from then, there has not been a time when I was not in love with dancing. I have always been in Dhaka and Shibli Mohammad has always been and will be my Guru, but I also started learning as a student from Shamim Ara Nipa from around 1996. This year is my 24th year with sir (Shibli Mohammad) as a student and a few less as a Kathak instructor at Nrittyanchal Performing Art Academy. I have been their student way before they founded this academy.

I do work personally as well. My first work as a choreographer was with Prachyanat Theatre. Goethe Institute of Bangladesh has a platform for young dancers and I am one of the seven. Other than that I get offered different events and shows, which too I would say with the help from these platforms. But I have never stopped working for Nrittyanchal Performing Art Academy and Shibli Mohammad.

I had a long break from dance, almost 4 years, after my son was born. It had made me realize how hard it is for me to keep myself away from dancing or not dance at all. So I would say my future plan is to continue to do what I do for as long as my body supports it, because when I dance I somehow get the energy, dedication and passion of a 16-year old.


SaIful Islam Evan

Hometown: Patuakhali

Styles: Folk, Bharatanatyam

Inspiration: Akram Khan 

I started dancing from my hometown Patuakhali back in 1997. Initially I specialized in Folk and General dancing under the watch of my first teacher Moniruzzaman Moni. Later I moved to Barisal and to continue dancing I joined Shilpakala Academy and Shishu Academy of Barisal where I got Shohag Bhai (Ivan Shahriar Sohag) and Murad Bhai (Muradujjaman Khan) as my mentors. After I moved to Dhaka I started specializing in Bharatanatyam under the discipline of Jago Art Centre where my guru was Belayet Hossain Khan, one of the most promising Bharatanatyam dancers in the country. Apart from Bharatanatyam I usually dance to fusion and folk. However much I have specialized in Bharatanatyam, and still learning it, I work the most with fusion and contemporary dancing when it comes to shows. 

I have my own school in Patuakhali which I started in around 2008 or 2009. Whenever I visit there I take classes and there were a few times my students come to Dhaka to learn from me and perform in televisions, but I do not have any plan on growing or focusing in having my own group because I believe I still have a lot to learn. In Dhaka I mostly work with Sharmila Banerjee from Chayanaut Sangeet Vidyatan along with this I have been working as a choreographer with my team from 2014 at Channel I. Since after I won the 1st runners-up position in Mangolee Shera Nachiye back in 2013. From there I have made a lot of friends from different seasons of the competition and we do plan on making our own group naming it Rhythm.

I would say my all-time favorite dancer and idol is Akram Khan and following his ideology, I would like to work in an international level while keeping our dance form or our cultural twist to dance unchanged. 


Suraiya Islam Ria

Hometown: Tangail

Styles: Contemporary, Kathak

Inspirations: Munmun Ahmed, Mitul Sengupta 

My hometown is Tangail so my initiation in dancing was in Tangail too, with my first mentor Rony Chowdhury. Later I moved to Rangpur and learned in the supervision of Abul Kalam Azad and Shapon Kumar Saha. When I moved to Dhaka my teacher was M.R. Wasek and Likhon Roy and my specialization was in Bharatnatyam. 

When I was a kid I always wanted to grow up to be a Gynecologist and so I studied in Pure Science all along, but when the competition 'Channel I Mangolee Shera Nachiye' began my mentors Abul Kalam Azad and M.R. Wasek motivated me to participate. I had no plans regarding my future in dancing but as I started qualifying at each round my love for dancing got stronger. I was one of the participants in Top 7 of the competition and according to the rule of the competition one participant had the chance to win a scholarship in India in the institution Rhythmosaic Dance Academy, which is conducted by Ronnie Shambik Ghose and Mitul Sengupta, and assisted by Prasanna Saikia. It was sponsored by Lubna khala (Lubna Marium), and in 2015, Season 3, I was chosen to be the lucky one.

Now that my life in dancing has changed completely, my wish of becoming a gynecologist has been happily thrown away out of the window and I want to flourish my future in dancing. I love the work of Munmun Ahmed from Bangladesh and Mitul Sengupta from here in my institution in Kathak and for contemporary I would follow the footsteps of Akram Khan. I am still learning and still have a lot to learn but when I am done I will get back to Bangladesh. I dream to go really big.  


Arnob Sharma

Hometown: Srimongol

Style: Manipuri 

Inspiration: Sweety Das Chowdhury

I started dancing when I was 12 back in my hometown in Moulovi Bazar, Sylhet. It escalated when Lubna khala (Lubna Marium) started a joint venture project for three years. The initial steps of Manipuri, called the 'Mridanga Chalan', were my first expertise when I was 12 with my Guru Babu Chan Singha. After the initiative with Lubna Marium I started to learn more of it from my mentor Sweety Das Chowdhury. My specialization is in Manipuri and I barely work outside my genre. 

In Dhaka I only work with Shadhona Shangskritik Mondal, supervised by Lubna Marium and other than that I work with my Manipuri Group that was formed in Moulovi Bazar. 

My future plan for now is to do my Masters in Manipuri dance form Manipuri Cultural University in India. I have already applied for the scholarship and now I do classes at Shadhona. When I feel I am educated enough, I wish to start my own group and continue in Manipuri dance form. 


Ruhi Afsana Dipti

Hometown: Jamalpur

Style: Kathak, Others

Inspiration: Pandit Birju Maharaj 

My life in dance started with the will of my mother from when I was 3. I would hold my mother's hand and hold a feeder in the other. It all started in my hometown Jamalpur in the guidance of Advocate Shamim Ara, teacher at Shilpakala Academy Jamalpur, followed by Khandokar Hafizur Rahman Ripon. After we moved to Dhaka, I decided to expertise in Kathak so I joined classes taken by my guru Shaju Ahmed, gradually I worked with M.R. Wasek and also Ivan Shahriar Sohag.

My initial specialization was in Kathak, but after joining Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy I perform different forms as well, mostly General Dance. We take workshops conducted my masters from different parts of Asia. Chandraman Munikar and Rajendra Shrestha Guruji last visited and conducted a workshop in 'Charya Pada', after that Urmee Mala Devi visited and taught us Contemporary. 

Joining Shilpakala Academy gave a whole new story to my career in dancing. In 2015 my father came across a circular offering for Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. Without any preparation I sat for the written exam and got selected followed by the viva exam which I also passed with flying colors and now I am working as a Junior Dance Artist at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy.

My favorite dancer and idol of all time is Birju Maharaj Ji, and putting him as an inspiration I want to continue my future in dancing. I somehow could not manage to study dancing in my Undergrad and ended up studying BBA, but my plan is to pursue dance in my Graduate. 

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