A look into the history of Bangladeshi dance
Despite being perhaps the oldest performing art form, dance, has not witnessed the kind of research or studies it deserves in Bangladesh. Fortunately, in recent years, some dance exponents and enthusiasts have taken the initiative to conduct researches and in-depth studies on the medium.
Shaikh Mehedi Hasan, who is currently doing a PhD on dance at the Department of Theatre and Music, Dhaka University, understands the need for such endeavours. In this regard, Mehedi has formed Centre for Dance Research (CDR). The organisation made its debut with a photo exhibition at the ongoing 'mela' (fair) at the Plaza of National Art Gallery, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA). The 'mela' and exhibition are part of the 4th National Dance Festival that ends today with a grand celebration of International Dance Day.
Mehedi, who is also a cultural correspondent for the daily Prothom Alo, decided to consider 1947 as the formative year in the contemporary history of dance in our country. "In December, 1947 Gawhar Jamil and his friend Rabi Shankar ('tabla' player) founded the first formal institution for dance -- called 'Shilpakala Bhaban.' The school started with three students -- Rawshan Jamil (who later went on to become an accomplished actress), Tapoti and Gawhar's sister Shipra Roy," says Mehedi. Rare black and white photos of the late Jamils (Gawhar and Rawshan) trace that history.
In total there are 49 photographs at the exhibition; 30 of them feature legends and stars of the medium including the late Bulbul Chowdhury. A pioneering dancer born in this part of Bengal, Chowdhury mastered the art form with unbridled passion and determination, leaving behind a legacy. BAFA (Bulbul Academy of Fine Arts) is named after the legendary dancer. Also featured are the maestro Uday Shankar, who popularised Indian classical dance in the west, and his disciple Amala, performing the "Shiva-Parvati" dance. Despite a 19 year age difference, Amala decided that she would get married to her 'guru' and eventually she did.
There's also a photograph featuring a scene from "Nakshi Ka(n)thar Math." First staged in 1961, "Nakshi Ka(n)thar Math" remains the dance-drama performed the most here.
Photos of season dancers and dance gurus from outside the capital have also been included. Mehedi pointed to photographs of the late Jogesh Chandra Das (from Mymensingh) and the late Rasheduddin Talukdar (from Khulna).
Other images highlight indigenous traditions, like Ora(n)o dancers performing at their 'Karam Utshab' and spirited Garo artistes at a 'Wanggala' celebration.
Handwritten notes and letters by renowned dancers are on display, and so are publications on dance, including "Prachya Nrityer Roop o Bikash," compiled and edited by Mehedi.