The Unchanging Reality of Male Dancers in Pakistan


  • Sheema Kermani



The social status of male dancers in South Asia has been well-furrowed as a field of scholarly investigation. Since time immemorial, Shiva has been described as Nataraj and Bharata’s Natya Shastra refers to both male and female dancers. Wajid Ali Shah, the ill-fated Nawab of Avadh, was not just a patron of dance, but also a dancer and choreographer who wrote several books on dance like Najo, Bani, and Saut-al Mubarak. A more recent history of male dancing began with the many books on Rabindranath Tagore and Uday Shankar. But the way male dancing found social acceptance in the different countries of South Asia is quite uneven. Post-colonial India and Sri Lanka celebrated dancers such as Uday Shankar; Kathak doyens such as Shambhu Maharaj, Lachhu Maharaj, and Birju Maharaj; the Manipuri Gurus such as Amubi Singh; Kathakali Asan’s such as P.K. Kunju Kurup, T.K. Chandu Pannikar; and many more in the many dance styles of India. Patronage included the national Padma Awards, the National Performing Arts Awards (Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards), and performances and valences of many kinds. Sri Lankan dance flourished under the legendary Chitrasena; things in Pakistan were very different then.