My phone rings, I franticly reach into my purse and grab it, pressing it to my ear. It’s my childhood friend who is about to get married in two months. I feel a surge of mixed emotions race through me.
She is getting married and till now I haven’t attended a single dance practice. After all, wasn’t it our childhood dream to dance on each other’s wedding? I pick up the phone, she asks me politely with a hint of sarcasm if I even plan to dance on her wedding.
I take a deep breath and try to explain to her about my ever increasing work commitments. She still urges me to at least participate in the ‘ludi’ sequence; entrapped by guilt I succumb to the pressure.
“Yeah, sure. I will be there on Thursday,” finally, I take out time and reschedule my own classical dance class.
I enter the lounge, a large crowd of girls and boys are dancing behind a self appointed choreographer. On the side, there are a few people sitting and trying to evade the dance practice, as they fear being called to centre stage to practice the dance once again by the ‘dance nazi.’
The ‘dance nazi’ is one of the girls there, who is probably the eldest ‘apa’ or happens to be one of the wealthiest bahus, who has taken up the task of showing her utmost solidarity for her friend/relative by preparing a long and perfect dance sequence. But of course, her duties also entail cutting those who aren’t so well versed with dance to size.
I ask them, “Hello! When is my turn?” I am told that right after the current dance number is the ‘ludi’. I sit back and start to engage with the prepared dance numbers. That’s the thing about dance practises, they don’t account for anyone else’s time. In order to learn one dance, you end up waiting for hours while others perfect their medleys.
All I see is a bunch of people being forced and pressurised to move. Does the meaning of dance cease to exist when it becomes a performance?
I have loved to dance since I was a four year old child. Since a few years, I started my training as a classical dancer as well. I begin to ponder over its purpose, and if this is one of the only avenues I will get to explore dance in the wider Pakistani society.
I gaze at all the people being forced to move to the most popular Bollywood dance numbers and the constant calls that the choreographer is receiving; he is panicking as he has to be somewhere but the ‘apa’ has not bid him to go.
Dance practices reduce the art to a mere competition; I feel there is a lack of sentimentality; this is a place where all the elites and children from upper middle class schools and colleges just get a platform to mingle with each other.
As a student of dance, I couldn’t help but assess that they do not have any technique, the movements are forced and demand unnecessary perfection. The main premise of a ‘shaadi’ is enjoyment and that is considerably lacking.
The choreographer is being abused because his medleys are not up to the standards of the so called wedding dancers, who have apparently been studying the dance form since many years. The courage and assurance with which they belittle him, makes it seem as though they are dance masters. The event seems to be the ultimate ‘nach baliye’ .
After an hour of waiting despite showing up on time, my turn finally comes. I quickly join them, in the hope of getting free in an hour.
The song starts, “ishq beena kia jeena …” and we start following the choreographer. After a half an hour-the dance has still not been finalised because the ‘apa’ did not like the steps that the choreographer made.
Two hours later and the ‘perfect’ dance has still not been made. A total of four hours gone by in this dance practice. To what end?
Is a wedding event just a display of a person’s wealth, is the number of medleys and dancers equally representative of ones place in society? Where the dance is just a bunch of Pakistan’s finest (read:elitist) decked up in heavy designer outfits going through the motions for the sake of having their video posted by Sunday Times and other online magazines.
Lets face the truth, dance practises are patrolled and controlled by a bunch of aunties and uncles who are not willing to grow up and leave their high school lives where they belong: the past.