How do you see Wahab Shah in the mirror?
Just like how everybody else sees me (chuckles). A man with a beard and long hair. I just look at myself, and I don’t see myself, I feel like I’m yet to be discovered. Still trying to find myself. I look at my old pictures and try to recognize this person. I see myself in transit. I think all of us are in a phase of finding ourselves.
How did you discover dance?
It’s such a strange question, and my answer also keeps on changing. Every person is in motion, I can’t remember when I started moving for a conscious reason. I don’t remember when I started to package or brand it as such. I guess it came from my father, he was a singer, and I was intrigued and always drawn towards performing arts. He had a great influence on me, and I started discovering myself under that influence. He used to tell us (siblings) to seek the best and be honest to yourself. That kinda’ guided me in gliding in this world of performing arts. From there onwards a friend took me to Akram Khan’s Work in Sydney. And in that process, I found myself dancing to NFAK and Michael Brookes’ Night Song (an album). Founded a dance company with a friend, we used to work as backup dancers behind different sets of artists, in Australia. Then I came back to Pakistan, in 2006, and then I came up with my own rendition of the things that I had learnt, this blend of modern dance, with spiritual movement, and that became a contemporary Sufi style.
How was this phase of discovery for you, was it painful?
Yes, definitely this discovery (phase) is painful, but it’s a sweet pain. But it offers a strange satisfaction. It’s a combination of pleasure with pain. When you’re broken or down or put in a box, you’re always misunderstood, not only as an artist but as a person too, you’re constantly going through this threshold that crushes you. It is not only about being an artist, but a human, and the more you realize that whatever your belief system may be, it is correct, and is eventually leading you to your Creator, and is constantly helping you in getting aligned and connecting with that (sublime) Being. The process: not implying that it must be right, but it could be. And, for that, you should realize that the opposition you’re getting is also fine. You must endorse that as well. When you don’t hurt anyone and understand yourself, you become a better person, and if you become a better person, you become a better artist.
What do you think of conflict?
My Ustadji (Raja Mughal) says that the “conflict keeps on”. There will always be a conflict, whether it is your white blood cells that fight with your red blood cells, or the regeneration of your hair, the conflict keeps, it is a part of evolution. I believe there are certain parameters or reasons that have been set for conflicts, I guess we need to find muhubbat (love) in these reasons. Everyone is fighting a battle, and if the reason for that battle is love then it’s worth the fight, if it is for hate, then it’s certainly not worth it.
Do you think art should be learned, or it should come from within?
I think learning is important, to get up to date with evolution. Every technology is a part of evolution that was possible only through learning. Anyone who learnt this accumulated knowledge, had a responsibility on them to further evolve it. That is the reason for living. To keep evolving. Today, as technology progresses, there are certain threats, but there’s also hope. There’s a window of possibility, possibility to learn and evolve.
What is more difficult for you: to learn new moves, or to teach new moves?
They both have their own challenges. Sometimes learning is difficult. When we learn, we unlearn, if you do not have the capacity to unlearn, you can not learn. To teach is to learn also. When you’re teaching somebody, you should understand ‘what you are teaching’, and how it penetrates. If it is not penetrating the way you want it to, then you must learn to teach in a manner that your student is able to benefit more from the knowledge. Sometimes you need to adapt, accordingly. You must submit when learning.
What type of an artist are you?
I’m a curious artist, I’m curious about life, and I’m curious about life, and I'm curious about life.
Where do you see dance in Pakistan in the coming years?
I’m very hopeful for the future. Generally, we are very receptive to change, in order to catch up with the world we must start opening up now. There’s a saying in Punjabi, that goes ‘dunia channd te pohonch gayi ay te putar tu halay tak kamm te vi nahi gaya’ (laughs). (The world is already at the moon, and you haven’t even gone for work). The world is already at the moon for vacations and exploring space. We need to realize, celebrate, and cherish all these jamaaliaat (aestheticism) like raqs (dance)….. nacho aur nachnay dou yaar. (dance and let people dance).
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