Vol. 4 Num 259 Wed. February 18, 2004  

Performing arts
'Dance to my tunes!'
What Tamanna Rahman has to say

This goes way beyond my range of recollection of childhood memories, but according to my mother, I used to sway to the beat of songs even before I learned to walk properly. I remember very vaguely about a dance school in Kakrail, back in the early 70's, where I first began my formal learning of this art and continued there for little more than a year.

I grew up in an environment where different arts, especially dance and music, prevailed. My eldest maternal aunt, Rowshan Ara, was an established singer back in those days, my sisters, cousins and myself were strongly influenced by her heartfelt interest towards music.

My guru Kartik Sinha first introduced me to the art of Kathak. I worked with him till high school, after which I began to learn Manipuri from Shanti Bala Sinha in the mid 80's. I further emphasised on the art of Manipuri dance and continued learning it till the early 90's under Sunny Mahapatra. I also studied the Odessey for five years and the dancers of our batch were in fact the pioneer Odessey dancers in Bangladesh.

In 1993, I travelled all the way to Kolkata to specialise in Manipuri with Guru Bipin Singh, the legendary Manipuri dancer. The whole teaching and learning belonged to the traditional system where we all had to stay at the guru's house to learn the art. I spent learning at the Manipuri Narthanalaya from the year 1993 to 1997. His wife, Guru Kalavati Devi, was also a teacher there.

Around the year 1994, I was granted the ICCR scholarship which enabled me to complete my masters in Manipuri from Rabindra Bharati University. Even though I was specialising in one particular art form, I had to go through a series of foreign dance forms as well, like the Western, South Asian, Srilankan, Chinese and Western ballad. Along with these theories, we were made to study the Natya Shastra, the most ancient set of theories and hypothesis concerning music and dances in the whole of the sub continent.

Even though I have now specialised in Manipuri, I enjoy performing the Odessey as well. Somehow, I find a lot of similarities between these very different forms and their presentations.

One of my very memorable performances was at the Public Library in 1984 where I performed for about 2 hours with Shanti Bala Sinha. This kind of performance was done for the first time in the country. I also remember an Odessey performance, which was done by our batch at the National Museum in 1990-91. In the year 2000 a Sylhet based AIDS NGO had organised a fund raising programme. It was a solo show performed by the shehnai maestro Ustaad Bismillah Khan, at the Osmani Memorial Auditorium.

I had the priviledge to perform a solo Manipuri dance for about half an hour on the same stage.

Just recently, I choreographed the children's theatre-cum-dance production Toray Badha Ghorar Deem, adapted from Satyajit Ray's 'Limerick'. It was basically a 'Tuna-Tuni' production and was very much appreciated by the audience at Kolkata as well.

Tamanna Rahman performing Odessey