A dance of allegiance

November 28, 2021

Bait, a semi-classical dance show, sought to present the inimitable bond between ustad and shagird

Share Next Story >>>
The performances followed the classical Kathak posture but were mostly set to a mix of old Bollywood and contemporary songs. — Images by the author

As I walked into Olo Junction, in New Muslim Town, Lahore, my eyes ran across a wide array of people waiting at the entrance. Most were youngsters, waiting for their friends, siblings or other relatives to perform at the show, titled Bai’at, which roughly translates as “allegiance”.

A few days ahead of the event, I had contacted the organiser, Fatima Amjad. She explained to me that the night’s performance was meant “to encapsulate the bond of allegiance between a shagird (disciple) and an ustad (teacher).” Most of the individuals performing would be her students. A few others would share the platform to voice their stories.

While buying the ticket, my eyes swayed across the entrance, where I saw the audience. They were people from several age groups, including a few elderly ladies. Many young individuals were also a part of the audience, their eyes wandering all over the place to catch a glimpse of friends and acquaintances. After some time, the performance began.

There were oil lamps placed around the stage, and rose petals collected in small bowls in front of the stage. Various shades of red and purple added to the ambience, creating a subtle, enigmatic effect. The background was decorated with white arches and maroon curtains that hearkened back to the Mughal era, with shades of red aiding in the creation of a surreal image.

There were oil lamps placed around the stage, and rose petals collected in small bowls in front of the stage.


The background was decorated with white arches and maroon curtains that hearkened back to the Mughal era, with shades of red aiding in the creation of a surreal image.

The main performer entered. She began with Aaj rung dae, a qawwali composed by Amir Khusro, an Indo-Persian poet and musician of the 13th and 14th Century who was a disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya (a sufi adept in Delhi). It is believed that Khusro penned the song to celebrate his allegiance to his spiritual guide and mentor. The song is performed at the end of the qawwali, marking the ecstasy of the shagird.

Later, speaking to the performer, I learnt that the opening act was symbolic of her personal journey as a dancer and recalled how her first teacher had initiated her in performing to this specific piece of poetry. The performance by her and a student of hers represented the union; a relationship expected to stand the test of time.

Various shades of red and purple added to the ambience, creating a subtle yet enigmatic effect.

The show demonstrated the idea of unity in the relationship between ustad and shagird in various forms, including some queer representations. Additionally, the rendition explored how intimately the idea of loyalty is embedded in all relationships, human or divine.

The organiser told me that the main purpose of staging the show was to offer a platform to her dance students to voice their narratives. In a sense, it provided a space for the youth to let go of their inhibitions and showcase their creative potential.

The performances followed the classical Kathak posture but were mostly set to a mix of old Bollywood and contemporary songs. This kept the mostly young audience engaged, while also conveying the message of Khusro.


The writer is a trained classical dancer. She teaches dance at a school in Lahore



More From Shehr