Finding the Roots of Bengali Folk Dance

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In order to answer the question “what defines Bangla Lokonritya?” “, eminent maestros and dance artists gathered during a round table entitled “Shekorer Shondhane Bangla Lokonritya”.

The event was hosted by Nrityanchal and Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy on November 2. Hosted by Shamim Ara Nipa and Shibli Mohammad, both dancers and choreographers in their own right, the event took place at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy.

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Shamim Ara Nipa started the discussion by bringing up the concept of Bangla “Lokonritya” (folk dance).

“I once represented Bangladesh at a folk festival, as a choreographer,” shared Shamim Ara Nipa, continuing, “After our performance, the event organizer argued with us , that our performance was our own creative choreography, not a folk dance.”

“There are certain rules for what makes a folk dance or ‘lokonritya’. We cannot call a dance that accompanies folk songs our local dance. So we have to ask ourselves what are the characteristics of a folk dance?” Nipa asked.

At this point, Shibli Mohammad chimed in saying, “Today’s discussion has been organized with the intention of establishing what makes our traditional folk dance. This can only be achieved through conscious discussion and agreement between the country’s leading dance personalities”.

Attending the event were prominent figures from the world of Bangladeshi dance, including Dr. Saymon Zakaria, Deputy Director of Culture Department, Bangla Academy; Al Zabir, Chairman of Dance Department, Kazi Nazrul Islam University and Nadimul Islam, Founder of Pallibangla Bratchari Sangha, among many others.

The discussion progressed as many dance masters explored the history of our folk dance and its many forms. According to them, Jari, Shari, Dhamay and many other dance forms which have been practiced till now fall under the category of folk music but not folk or local dance.

“Our traditional dance forms come from the very root of rural life and how it is mixed with dance, music, stories and epics,” said Saymon Zakaria. “Just like Behula Nachayan, it is an epic portrayed through music, dance, drama, etc. These rural dance forms have a long history of their own.”

“Our dance history takes us back thousands of years, divided into several stages based on time, place and culture,” shared the kathak dancer and assistant professor in the dance department of the University of Dhaka, Monira Parveen.

“Even though we have not come to a conclusion on what makes Bangladeshi folk dance, this conference is the first step towards rediscovering our history, culture and identity,” Al Zabir said. “Not only do we need to restore our folk dance forms, but we must simultaneously work on documenting, publishing and branding it.”

“Shekorer Shondhane Bangla Lokonritya” was a three-day event, starting on November 2 and ending on November 4. On the final day, the event celebrated cultural activist Muhammad Jahangir, whose birthday is also November 4.

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