POST TIME: 2 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 2 February, 2018 12:50:22 AM
Dancing for Peace and Tolerance
By Sheikh Iraj

Dancing for Peace and Tolerance

Battery Dance Company of New York performed for the first time in Bangladesh recently with the theme, ‘Dancing for Peace and Tolerance'. The programme, with special appearancess by singer Shwapnil Shojib and Shadhona Cultural Circle, was held at the National Theatre Hall of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy in Dhaka on January 27. The American dance group includes dancers from different backgrounds. Through their performances, the local audience witnessed a celebration of peace between dancers of different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs.  The evening's presentation reflected Mahatma Gandhi's desire for a culture of peace, tolerance, and non-violence.

The programme began with a combined recital on stage, titled Shakti: The creation. Sean Scantlebury, Bethany Mitchell, Robin Cantrell, Clement Mensah and guest dancer Unnat HR (Hassan Ratnaraju) of Chennai-based Prayathnam dance forum took part in this segment. The Battery Dance Company's other performance included ‘Observatory', Terra and Astra' and ‘People Get Ready'.

Unnath HR performed a solo experimental Bharatanatyam dance that depicted destruction of demons. Bangladeshi dance group Shadhona presented ‘Ultraviolet’. The evening came to an end with Shojib singing ‘People Get Ready' as Cantrell and Scantlebury performed a ballet-based duet dance in the background.

Between the performances, a trailer of a documentary featuring the range of activities of Battery Dance Company was screened. The clip showed the company going to different countries and motivating the local youths through dance. At the end of the trailer, it was announced that Bangladesh was the first country to get an exclusive preview of the trailer and the full documentary would be shown in New York soon.  

Battery Dance Company has been performing all over the world for the past 42 years, and Bangladesh was the 71st country it visited.

"We are honoured to join the people of Bangladesh in dancing to promote peace and tolerance. Some 42 years ago, I founded Battery Dance Company and so far we have visited 71 countries, including Bangladesh. After coming here and meeting with different people, we now understand there is an appetite for dance among the people of Bangladesh. We have witnessed a lot of talent among the youth," Jonathan Hollander, artistic director and founder of the dance company, told reporters at the end of the programme.   

“We started small, then we came to realise we can perform for larger audiences. So, we decided to organise a festival called Battery Dance festival. For 37 years, we have been organising the festival. We visit different countries, and we invite different dance groups to perform in New York. Fulbright Program takes Americans overseas and brings people to America (through scholarships). Before this programme started, we organised a small workshop where six different dance groups participated,” he added.

When asked how Battery Dance Company was helping to create peace and tolerance, Hollander said: "We can see conflict in every corner of the globe now. I believe studying, teaching, engaging and learning are the things that make peace. You cannot hate anyone you have interacted with. We have worked in Iraq and we have found immense talent among the youth there. We also had the opportunity to work in Europe and Germany. In a very humble and modest way, we can use art as a peace-building opportunity."

US Ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat was present and gave a speech before the programme began. The group’s visit was supported by the US Embassy in Dhaka, US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. The company's next destination was New Delhi, India.

Photos: Jaki Zaman