Dance with me: Wahab Shah on the art of movement
Wahab Shah, a dance artist/choreographer, who has been a member of the field for many years, is one of the most sought after names in the business. When it comes to popular award shows and large scale corporate events across Pakistan, he is a wanted man.
His crowning moment was choreographing the closing act of the Geo-Lux Style Awards – Atif Aslam’s tribute to the late Junaid Jamshed. The ceremony was directed by HSY who replaced Frieha Altaf this year.
“A show director alone unfortunately can’t bring a change about,” Shah responded when asked if having a new show director brought any difference to his work. “To be honest, I feel there’s a lot more one can do, creativity-wise. It’s the collective consciousness that has to bring a change. And in that regard, there has to be a mutual consensus about who is doing what in the industry. When platforms like what I am trying to create and other similar platforms start coming together and mingle with each other, they learn about each other’s strengths. Right now we are aloof in terms of whose strength is what so we end up putting everything on one person. However, we should not place all the responsibility on one person’s shoulders.”
Shah was speaking on the sidelines of an event he put up recently at Wahab Shah Dance Company (Karachi studio) to celebrate International Dance Day (April 29). The event featured the performances of 12 aspiring dancers who presented their stories through brief dance performances that signified their distinct identities.
“It is our first in-house event at the Karachi studio,” Shah shared. “We wanted to celebrate all things dance and have them tell their stories in style.”
Reflecting on how people perceive this form of art, he stated, “Since I have lived in the West most part of my life, I’ve only heard people saying that there’s certain negativity about this art form. I feel that if you do it with a pure intention and with the right people, there’s nothing wrong with it. I don’t judge people who look down upon this form of art. I just feel they need to broaden their horizons by connecting to artists. If they come forward and we come forward, we might be able to convince them.”
Coming back to the LSAs, Shah also discussed how this year was unique. “There was a certain energy in the artists. Everybody felt that they wanted to be a part of it,” he noted. “Previously all of them wanted to be a part of it but were more concerned about how much money they would earn. This time around they were enthusiastic to do it. They were like ‘let’s do it, let’s make it happen.’”
What was the reason behind this renewed spirit that Shah observed?
“After so many years there’s a certain friendship that people create,” stated Shah. “In that friendship we end up kind of thinking that maybe this person might do a certain job better than the other person. Sometimes we miss out on other things and often make bad choices. I think the choices are correct and people are coming together under one roof so it’s going to be great.”
Speaking about how challenging it is to make celebrities dance, Shah noted, “I take the challenge on myself. Whenever I do something I make sure I do it differently than what I did the last time so that I enjoy it. As far as making stars dance is concerned, it depends on how open they are. Some are born with this talent so it’s fun working with them. Some need to know the basics before we proceed and some just think they know the best.”
Having studied professional dance from Australia, Shah is an international artist who has choreographed for prolific names like Sonu Nigam, A.R. Rahman and Balvinder Singh.
He was also an integral part of the Karachi Dance Festival that was held at the Arts Council earlier this month for which he was rewarded at the event. He performed on the contemporary Sufi repertoire on the first day of the festival while his team presented a refined version of their stories through dance on the final day.