Vol. 5 Num 921 Fri. December 29, 2006  

Taking Bangladeshi dance to Oslo

Dance is an integral part of not only Bangladeshi culture but also cultures throughout the world. It is an art form that transcends language and cultural barriers.

Nrityanchal -- a Bangladeshi dance troupe was invited to perform at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony on December 10 in Oslo, Norway.

It is worth mentioning that this year none other than our very own Dr Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize. It was at Dr Yunus' request that the Nobel Committee invited the dance troupe from Bangladesh.

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Star, founders of the troupe Shamim Ara Nipa and Shibli Mohammad shared their excitement at being the first dance troupe to have ever performed on those grounds.

A 15-member dance troupe accompanied Dr Yunus to Oslo on December 8, 2006. Shibli expresses his feelings, "As an artiste this was the highest point in my career. I have performed in over 50 countries, but to be able to perform at the Oslo City Hall at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony was exhilarating."

He continues, "The previous day we had a full rehearsal, complete with costume and makeup. Everyone had to go through a rigorous routine. Yet on the day as I got on stage I felt numb. The gratification that it was a Bangladeshi collecting the prize, the exhilaration of being the first dance troupe to be performing there, and knowing that the whole world was watching us, it was just surreal."

Nrityanchal performed two dance numbers at the programme. The first dance was based on the Tagore song Rangiye diye jao go abar. According to Nipa, "Rabindranath Tagore was the first Bengali to have won the Nobel Prize. Besides we thought this song was perfect for the introductory session. It had a lot of energy and colour."

The second performance was titled Janmabhumi (Motherland). Says Nipa. "Many there weren't aware of Bangladeshi culture. We were lucky to get an opportunity to showcase our culture in front of the whole world."

Addressing why they were chosen to perform at the grand event, Nipa says, "It is not the first time we have performed at Dr Yunus' request. However, we knew that it was an uncommon practice to dance at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. When the call did come we knew we had a huge responsibility."

The Nobel Peace Concert took place the following day i.e. on December 11 at the Oslo Spectra Arena Centre. Actors Sharon Stone and Angelica Huston were the Masters of Ceremony. Renowned artistes Yusuf Islam (AKA Cat Stevens), Lionel Richie, Simply Red, John Legend, Rihana, Paolina Rubio, opera singer Rene Fleming, Morten Abel and Nrityanchal were amongst those who performed. There were approximately 8,000 people present and Nrityanchal chose the Mayur Nritya (peacock dance) for the occasion.

Regarding Nrityanachal, Shibli and Nipa both have the same aspiration, "Nrityanchal Music and Dance Company (NMDC) was established in 2000 with the goal to train and promote dance artistes and give them a platform. The institution's broader vision was to develop professionalism among local dancers by proving that dance can be a financially viable career option. We got congratulatory mails from the organisers of the Nobel Peace Committee branding us as an international dance troupe. Through Oslo we believe we have left a positive mark about our dance troupe as well as Bangladesh."

Shibli (L), Nipa (R) and artistes of Nrityanchal perform the 'Peacock Dance'