The trend of elaborate dance shows has been ruling for a while now. Hundreds of dancers on stage, in colour-coordinated vibrant cloths, with extravagant props, accessories and styling. Well, putting all this together is a Hercules task and there is one maverick who does it all with ease. I am talking about the very creative Ankur Pathan, a folk dancer, choreographer and a renowned show director, who with his expert stage craft, light & set design has been presenting the most memorable shows by the Government on India.
Ankur’s name figures in Asia Book of Records, India Book of Records and Guinness Book of Records. He was awarded with the National Award in 2011, Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Kalakar Puraskar and Event Management Federation Award in 2014, 2015 for the use of technology in folk. We all are aware that Garba is going to be soon announced as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage, and as an awardee in folk, Pathan will soon lead the dance performance. I met the distinguished artist recently. Excerpts from the interview:
Tell me about you dance training and your early days of dance?
I started my career as a dancer with Aavishkar Academy of Performing Arts in Ahmedabad. I attended umpteen workshops with authentic Folk and Tribal Performers at their homes, schools and institutes. I am happy to share that I have so far visited 34 countries through ICCR and also been to several parts of India through Zonal Centres. My folk dance took me to every corner of India and most beautiful places in the world. My initial days of dancing, performing at various stages are something that molded my mind to what it is told.
Why did you choose folk dance as your career?
Oh! I can go on and on about my love for the folk dance art of India. But the most important thing I feel what attracted me and made me choose folk dance as my career is the power it brings. Folk dances are filled with energy not just normal energy but high voltage energy, it has varieties of colors, the instruments are popular as well as some very rare ones, the music is soul touching and the purity that it holds can never be matched with any other art form.
They say the world of dance is more for the ladies, how do you feel being a man in the world donimated by women?
Well not going to lie, indeed it is! Every moment is challenging, you need to be excellent in your merits and perfection but to be precise in my field there is space for both, it is welcoming to both males and females. For example, Garbo is for only females and Garbi is for only males and then there is Raas where both males and females come together and perform for lord Krishna and Radha. So we can find a good balance if and only if the art is pure and kept unpolluted.
You are one of the favorite dance show directors for stage shows and events organized by the Government, which has been most memorable and why?
I literally have a long list, a never ending list of memorable events and shows that I have choreographed, well picking up a few is going to be a task. But nevertheless I will be mentioning a few of them that I found to be extremely satisfying. Statue of Unity Launch, with 800 musicians and dancers from various parts of India, maintaining a common rhythm and variations in other instruments, I can still hear the sounds of it. ‘Vibrant Navratri’ in 2014, a multimedia spectacle in multilevel stage with all types of special effects on stage, with 400 local dancers which included their Arial fight, Arial Raas in sky above 200 ft from the ground which was the highlight of the event. Swarnim Gujarat, a Government of Gujarat’s celebration at Sardar Patel Stadium in 2010, coordinated and choreographed the mega event with Bollywood choreographer Chinni Prakash ji and Rekhaji, plus managed 6000 dancers for one month with rehearsals and then the show itself was the first of Indian events, before I did the commonwealth games opening ceremony. Then there was Namaste Trump, the 8 km long road show of the US President with 2000 Dancers and cultural folk performance in the stadium in front of over two lakh crowd, was unbelievable moments for me. Oh Sandip! I better stop now, I can go on and on. This even makes me emotional, it is almost like planning a baby and seeing it being born, totally an unbelievable feeling.
Tell me more about your recent show of Gujarat Day and what is next in your pocket?
My most recent one is again for the Gujarat government, where I designed, choreographed and managed Gujarat Government State Level celebration of Gujarat day, I took place at the beautiful city of Jamnagar, here I worked with 90 per cent of local dancers and drama artists, on 12 different level stages. Next for me is The G20 summit at Gandhinagar and in Diu which I am currently focusing on.
How do you feel when folk dance and dancers are treated differently to the classical ones?
There are a lot of differences, it is painful not only for me but also for my late Guru Bansi Kaul ji. One dance type (Folk) is ground rooted and the second one (classical) is sophisticated and the treatment given to both are also the same, which does hurt, pierces like an arrow right into the heart. The beauty of folk dances is its purity, colorful costumes, rhythm, music, and energy of performance. Which should not be taken as a difference in treatment.
Sandip Soparrkar holds a doctorate in world mythology folklore from Pacific University USA, an honorary doctorate in performing arts from the National American University, He is a World Book Record holder, a well-known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honored with three National Excellence awards, one National Achievement Award and Dada Saheb Phalke award by the Government of India. He can be contacted on [email protected]