Zareen Panna, an eminent Pakistani kathak dancer and veteran film artiste has recently started teaching dance at Alhamra Art Center, The Mall.

Ms Panna who has some 50 movies to her credit, including hits like Baji, Nila Parbat, Gulfam, Bazigar, Haveli and many more has signed a contract with the Lahore Arts Council for the promotion of classical dance with a special focus on young generation.

“In our country regretfully commercially oriented dances have made more space as compared to classical dance, which is a pity”, Ms Panna said in an interview with Dawn.

A student of renowned classical dancers from the subcontinent such as Ustad Ghulam Hussain Patailawalay, Ustad Shadoo Mehraj (Dehli Gharana), Ustad Jati Baksh (Jaipur Gharana), Ustad Siddiuqe Samrat and Ustad Rafi Anwar, Ms Panna is now sharing her legacy with eight young students at Alhamra -- four boys and as many girls.

“The Council shall organise a grand kathak dance performance at Alhamra in February featuring my students. It will be the beginning of classical dance shows on a regular basis as after every three months such an event will be held”, Ms Panna told this scribe, adding that the basic objective of these performances would be to evaluate what the students had learnt during training.

A solo show of Zareen Panna is also on the cards under the auspices of Lahore Arts Council for which dates are being finalised.

The dancer has a long association with China since the days when she went there as part of a delegation accompanying the late prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and performed in front of Chinese leader Mao Zedong.

For the last three years she has been shuttling between Pakistan and China where she has many students whom she taught kathak and Sufi dances.

“Chinese young girls and boys have great admiration for kathak and many of them are learning this form of dance from me”.

The reason behind this liking was close relations and cultural exchanges between the two countries, she added.

Panna is also working for the cause of cancer patients with Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital. She has also written and directed a play ‘Roshni’ in which the whole cast comprised cancer patients of the hospital.

“The Lahore Arts Council is doing a valuable job by updating and restructuring its dance and music classes, for these two forms always have an immense impact on the masses. Now in such turbulent days of extremism the message of peace and tolerance which is also the message of Sufis can well be spread through such performing arts”, said Ms Panna.

Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2016

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