Sunday, June 09, 2013

An 'arangetram' in Pakistan

From pages 120-122 of "Choreographing [in] Pakistan:Indu Mitha, Dancing Occluded histories in “The Land of the Pure”" by Feriyal Amal Islam(
"Islamabad 1986—the era of martial law. The chief administrator, Zia-ul-Haq, has implemented the “Islamization” policy, which amongst other restrictive policies, bars women from appearing on television without their heads covered. Zia has also banned kathak dancer Naheed Siddiqi’s television program, paayal (Dancing Bells), the only classical dance program on national television at the time. This is the first time dance is officially banned in Pakistan; but inside the walls of the German Embassy an arangetram (a debut performance for a dancer) is about to start. It is Indu
Mitha’s daughter Tehreema’s arangetram. This is Tehreema’s “coming out” in the dance world, andwhat a dramatic way to do so, in a decade when no one is allowed to dance. This start will set thetone for the young dancer’s work in the future, as not only will she go on dancing throughout theremaining two years of martial law, but in 1992 she will raise the bold and taboo topic of women’s sexuality in a dance that depicts a conversation between mother and daughter, both moves radical for traditions of classical dance repertoire and post-colonial South Asian culture."

About the origins of 'erii maaM', the mother-daughter dance in one of the videos in an earlier post:
"Indu’s earlier dances up to this point like dukhii (Sad/Melancholy) which she learned from her first bharata natyam teacher Sri[mati] Lalita Shastri, repeat the themes of a woman’s anxiety of waiting for her beloved and helplessness in the separation and abandonment from her beloved, themes which both Indu and Tehreema say they were tired of."
About the dance:
"Unlike traditional stories where the woman in love confides to her female friend or sekhee about her heartbreak, the heroin in erii maaM confides in her mother. Together they raise the topic of sexuality, traditionally considered taboo for a mother and daughter to share. More important, for the questions that I want to explore in this chapter, is the strength of the female character, as the
woman in erii maaM, who is otherwise a modern day respectable woman, shows that she not only
moves on from her loss, but also breaks societal norms with her decision to raise her child out of
wedlock. While staying within the tame, traditional, domestic setting of the mother-daughter bonding scene, Indu and Tehreema (a mother and daughter both on stage and in life) choreograph:
1. Acceptance for non-domestic sexuality in a “domestic” context, and, 2. Scenario of strength and
agency for a woman to chart her own destiny despite such adverse circumstances."

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