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Pakistan Artist Dances Away Coronavirus Isolation


FILE: Khanzada Asfandyar Khattak is a folk and fusion dancer, choreographer, and instructor in Pakistan.

Khanzada Asfandyar Khattak, a dance artist, is using his spin, whirl, and moves to beat stay-at-home isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Khattak, in his early 40s, has used the quarantine to refine, innovate, and spread the various dance forms used in expressing emotions, storytelling, and rituals.

“Dance is the poetry of the body,” he told Radio Mashaal while repeating an often quoted saying in South Asia. “My dance has a message of love.”

FILE: Khanzada Asfandyar Khattak
FILE: Khanzada Asfandyar Khattak

Khattak, a folk and fusion dancer, choreographer, and instructor, was attracted to the classical Indian dances Kathak and Bharatanatyam. He eventually became an outstanding student of Indu Mitha. The 91-year-old legendary dance guru has dedicated her life to teaching Kathak and Bharatanatyam in Pakistan.

“From my early childhood, I was fond of dancing all the time -- at parties, engagements, weddings, and otherwise,” he told Pakistan’s daily Dawn. “I believe dance is self-revelation.”

His last name Khattak denotes his lineage as a member of a large Pashtun tribe whose specific form of Attan, a Pashtun folk dance, is sometime called the Khattak dance in Pakistan. After learning Kathak he fused it with Attan and the Afghan and Persian dances Logari, Qataghani and Afshari.

Attan: A Traditional Pashtun Dance Perfected In Waziristan
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As the coronavirus shut down most of the world and Pakistan, Khattak joined the Pomegranate Garden Dance, an online platform for Persian and Central Asian dance classes. On May 10, his Zoom class on Attan attracted some 100 people from around the globe. “It was an effort to introduce Attan to the world,” he said.

On May 17, he held another Zoom class. On May 30, Khattak will be holding a class focusing on Logari. “It is a very progressive form of music — different tunes can be assimilated in Logari, even Bollywood songs,” the Pomegranate Garden Dance noted in its introduction to his class.

“The Internet has the power to connect us to the world,” he told Radio Mashaal. “It is high time to plug in our singers, musicians, and choreographers to use this important platform.”

FILE: Khanzada Asfandyar Khattak
FILE: Khanzada Asfandyar Khattak

Khattak’s YouTube channel showcases some of his most memorable performances. It includes his acting out a Pashto song to reinforce the stay-at-home message during the coronavirus pandemic.

He says that his dance performances always have a message. “I deliver messages about human rights, women’s rights,” he said. “I use dance as a weapon against war and hatred in the 21st century.”

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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, the editor of RFE/RL's Gandhara website, is a journalist specializing in coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. 

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