By: Rashid Sami

Beauty in nature is perceivable only when a mind is uninhibited with ugliness and adversities of life. May it be natural or beauty within, in order to be discovered it is dependent on a system where mankind is respected and its needs are provided for. “Kathak is a way of life which brings awsthetic awareness of the beauty of nature and human thought process.” Claims Naheed Siddiqui a leading exponent of Kathak who was recently in the city conducting a 10 day workshop on classical dance.

Naheed, currently possessing a dual British-Pakistan nationality. Left Pakistan in 1979 due to extreme opposition against the dance from here. “ Dispirited and dejected” is how she describes her feelings at the times. “I never wanted to leave the soil where my roots existed.”
However, teaching classical dance for seven years in Birmingham resulted in forming a trained group of students with Pakistani, English and Indian origins.  In 1983 the British Council proposed formation of a dance company in order to encourage the awareness and education of Kathak as a dance form.

Naheed Siddiqui and Company, supported and funded by the Arts Council of Britain, has performed mostly in England and some parts of Europe and United States. The company also invites artistes, classical dancers and musicians from the subcontinent to England.

“My strength comes from my deep-rooted bond with my soil and therefore my performances focus on Sufism, thus projecting subjects such as Hazrat Amir Khusro, Maulana Roomi, Shah Hussain and Buleh Shah.”

Culture has proven to be a useful tool in promotion of a nation’s image in a foreign land and Naheed and her classical dance company have successfully managed to do so. Explaining the feedback from the audience during her foreign tours, she states. “as Kathak is not lingual therefore a performer communicates not through words but through aestheties and the audience need not be knowledge about any 0particular dance form. As soon as the beauty of the art touches and harmonises with the aesthetic rhythm of the inner person, a bond is created between the performer and the audience.”

Describing her company’s recent visit to Austria, where she was invited to perform by the Pakistani mission she states that as always her emphasis was on awareness of Kathak as a dance form which portrayed the true Pakistani culture heritage. “Once the beauty of our heritage was communicated through our performance, the audience was eager to know more about the roots of it.”

Naheed Siddiqui and her company will be performing in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad in February this year in connection with the 50-years celebration of the country being celebrated by the British Council as well. The tour is organised and funded by the British Council. Two performance in Karachi, one each in  Lahore and Islamabad will be rollowed by dance workshop in those cities.

 “Sad and ironic” war her comment describing the forthcoming tour of Pakistan as a foreigner sponsored by a foreign organization. “It is ironic for me to perform at Al-Hamra, Lahore, for the first time as a foreign national in my home town.”

Strongly objecting to Sonia Gandhi’s recent statement about India culturally invading Pakistan. Naheed disagree that culture can be divided amongst land or borders. “It is an immature statement reflecting one’s political ambitions as no art form can be confined to borders.”

Emphasising on the education and awareness of Kathak in the country she suggests that the art schools and institutions should recognize Kathak as an educational subject. “How can you teach any form of art without the awareness of beauty.”