Through the eyes of Shibli Mohammad
Shibli Mohammad is a leading exponent of classical Indian dance and is renowned as a performer, teacher and choreographer, specializing in the dance form of Kathak. He is well known for his dazzling displays of body spins as his performances build to a dramatic climax.
After leaving school, Shibli attended Jahangir Nagar University and graduated with an Honors Degree in Physics – but his life was soon to take a very different turn, as he had already discovered his passion for dance and was taking lessons from Kartic Singh, Ajit Dey and Anita Dey at the Chayanat Institute in Dhaka. Shibli was then awarded an Indian Government scholarship to train at the Bhatkhanbe Music College in Lucknow, where he was taught by the renowned Shreemati Purnima Pande.
His next move was to the Kathak Kendra in New Delhi, where he studied under the legendary Kathak exponent Pundit Birju Maharaj. Having completed his course with distinction, Shibli returned to Dhaka and quickly made a name for himself as the most accomplished of the up-and-coming young male dancers in Bangladesh.
Ever eager to expand his repertoire, he studied for a year at the London Ballet Theatre School, receiving training in ballet and contemporary dance, as well as tap and jazz. Inspired by this experience, he developed an increasingly experimental approach to choreography and he has become known for fusing traditional and modern dance forms, for example blending classical Kathak with modern and folk dance.
Shibli was the principal male dancer at the Shilpakala Academy for many years and has performed at many major state functions. He has also represented his country worldwide, with performances in more than 50 countries, including the UK, USA, and Canada, Gulf States, China, Japan and many other locations in Asia, Europe and Africa.
Shibli is a familiar figure on stage and screen in Bangladesh and, thanks to satellite TV, is as well known to Bangladeshis worldwide as he is at home. This has resulted in frequent private invitations to dance live before expatriate Bangladeshi communities in many parts of the world. He has recently gained a wider audience through the Indian channel, ETV Bangla, as one of the regular judges of the Calcutta based dance competition, Rhitur Mela, winning respect for his even-handed and authoritative judgments.
He has participated as a member of different national selection committees and jury boards, for instance on Bangladesh Television and at the Shishu Academy. He was also a member of the International Theatre Institute (ITI) committee for 2 years running.
He has also found time to perform in dance dramas televised by ETV in Calcutta, dancing with the Indian national award winning actress, Rituparna Sengupta, in productions of 'Shema' and 'Shapmochon', in celebration of the anniversary of Tagore's birth.
Back home in Dhaka, when he is not performing or planning his next show, much of Shibli's time is taken up with teaching. He teaches at the Nrityanchal School and also gives classes in a studio at his home.
In recognition of his outstanding achievements in the field of dance, Shibli has received a number of prestigious awards, including the UNESCO award for best Bangladeshi dancer, George Harrison Award for Dance in New York (jointly with Shamim Ara Nipa), the Jae Jae Din Award, the Bachshash Award, the Prothom Alo Award and the Lux Channel I Award, (in Sharjah).
My philosophy about life would be living with honesty. No matter where you are from, if you are an honest person nothing and no one can keep you down. I would proudly like to state that even if I am the most powerful person, no corruption can touch me. Despite that fact that I yearn to be more of a good human being every passing day. When it comes to me amongst all the other values I prefer being a good human.
My life's biggest inspirations are my mother, my late brother Shameem Mohammad and the great katthak guru Pundit Birju Maharaj. These three people have supported me and also have taught me everything about life. My family's support kept me strong throughout the whole process of me turning into a dancer from a singer. My dance is one of the things that inspires me.
I believe in the ideologies of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibar Rahman , my mother, pundit Birju Maharaj & Rabindranath Tagore . A certain part of me connects with these people in such a way that from the inside I want to be more like them. As my father was a martyr in the war of 1971 I have always found Bangabandhu as the most inspirational idol, other than that pundit Birju Maharaj; my katthak guru is someone who is more than just an idol to me. As I was the first Bangladeshi to be taught under pundit Birju Maharaj we have always shared a deep bond. Last but not the least Rabindranath Tagore has always been my idol. His novels, songs & poetries have left a deep impression on me. I am a very emotional person, and to me Tagore's art works are the best picture of human emotions.
I am a dance teacher now, I teach young kids katthak and other classical forms of dance. Some people may like chalking out a plan about their passion about the thing they are best at, or what to do in the future about it. But when it comes to me I don't like doing that about dance in the near future. I find humans future as fragile as a glass. I like concentrating on the present more than anything. I want to pursue dance as long as possible. If possible I would like to dance till my death. Now I run 'Nrityanchal' with Shamim Ara Nipa & Michael. We have two branches, so far eight hundred students and about thirty staff. I can proudly say in every country you will find a dancer who learned classical dance from me. For last seven years both me and Shamim Ara Nipa have been running a show called 'Tarana' on BTV. A weekly show in which we try bringing out dancing talents from all over the country. I am highly grateful to BTV for that fact. I believe that with this show the spirit of dancing has spread amongst everyone in our country.
Interviewed by Shahnaz Khalid