Dancing in the Streets of Pakistan (once more!)

6 Apr

There is dancing on the streets of Pakistan. In markets, in malls and in restaurants, groups of young people are breaking out into dance. And it’s wonderfully choreographed and spectacularly synchronized. But what are we dancing for when there is so little to be happy about?

The dancing is part of Coca Cola’s new advertising campaign in Pakistan. The phenomenon is called a flash mob and has been used as marketing gimmick in Western countries but I believe it is being done for the first time in Pakistan. The company has hired groups of young people both boys and girls (yes girls too!) to dance to the new coca cola jingle in crowded public places. It begins with one person breaking out into dance and strategically positioned “onlookers” joining in. Towards the end there are about ten people dancing. The dancers seem to be in their twenties and urban middle class youth, probably belonging to the more privileged segments of society given their trendy clothing.

The dance is fun and I cannot help but tap my foot to the upbeat music of the jingle. Also, I cannot help but be amazed at the courage of these young people dancing on the streets in such times. Yes, it’s a corporate gimmick and yes they must be paid for it but given the rising levels of intolerance in our society towards things like music and dance (especially where it involves a performance by both men and women together) it’s still pretty brave.

The locations are carefully selected. So far it’s been performed at more upscale locations in Lahore and Karachi where the crowd is more likely to be accepting of the co-ed dancing. But a group of performers performed in Liberty market in Lahore where there was no crowd screening or control. It takes courage to perform in public. It takes even more courage when there are small but violent segments of society that are opposed to such artistic expression and have exercised violent means to put an end to such performances in the past.

What is heartening is that so far there have been no reports of any kind of violence or aggression against the dancers. Lots of videos up on you tube show, surprised Pakistanis looking at the dancers with amazement and then some even joining in with clapping or nodding or tacit smiles and in the rare case by joining in the dance!

Indeed there will be segments of our society who will claim that this must be stopped as it’s against our culture and this is an exercise in corrupting the morals of our society. There will be those who claim that this is hindu-zionist propaganda. But I believe it is an expression of our cultural evolution. The popularity of music and dance from around the world is evident in Pakistan. And while we might deny it, music and dance remain deeply entrenched in our historical and cultural legacy as well as in our displays of happiness at festivals even today.

As I see these talented young Pakistanis dance with such skill and gusto and enthusiasm, I cannot help but feel a sense of pride. The numerous complements of non-Pakistani friends on the sheer creative genius of Pakistanis and their dancing abilities also did wonders for my Pakistani ego. After all, whoever these young Pakistanis are, they do a pretty good job and would put even top Bollywood dancers to shame. And the effortless and carefree joy with which they dance makes me nostalgic for gentler and happier times in Pakistan. But as I watch these young people break out into dance I cannot help but smile as I look to those around them. There is something strangely heartening in watching people letting go of their fear of expressing joy in public and joining in the fun. It reminds me that our spirits have not been entirely crushed by the recent years of terror and violence. It makes me proud that we still have the courage to view with tolerance a form of expression that we might not approve of. It gives me proof that we are more tolerant than the world makes us out to be. It gives me hope for a better future.

Published on All Things Pakistan April 06, 2010

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5 Responses to “Dancing in the Streets of Pakistan (once more!)”

  1. Know Code April 6, 2010 at 8:37 am #

    If there is one society that could really use some spontaneous joy, it’s us.

  2. Mehak April 6, 2010 at 8:47 am #

    I love how you’ve articulated all my unsaid thoughts and feelings about the Coke kids. Write more! Waiting eagerly!

  3. nadeem August 26, 2010 at 7:15 am #

    Some views by NON MUSLIMS

    “Dance halls are the modern nurseries of the divorce Courts, training shops of prostitution, and the graduating school of infamy and vice.” (Dr. L.L. Hollingworth)

    Remember the wise words of Dr. E.S. Sonners: “I attack the modern dance as a reversion towards savagery. As a medical man, I flatly charge that modern social dancing is fundamentally sinful and evil. I charge that it is the most insidious of the manoevres preliminary to sex betrayal. It is nothing more or less than damnable diabolical animal physical, dissipation. Do brothers and sisters dance like that? Father and mother? Mother and son? I tell you the basic spell of the dance is the spell of illicit physical contact. . . we doctors know. Trail of broken homes prove this”

    View in Islam.
    There are several Ahadees i can quote that oppose music, and dance but i wont indulge in that as it would take too much space. It would be nice if you do some research on it. Its not what i say or think its what Allah and His prophet say further explained by the eminent scholars of Islam. What is worse is that girls and guys do it together that too in public.

    Ibnul Qayyim Al-Jowziyyah refers to the music which accompanies dance as “the Qur’an of Shaytaan.” I ask you now to reflect on the nature of dance and music, as there is no doubt that the lyrics and rhythms of such music which is ‘danceable’ also encourages one to the basest of desires and can neither encourage one to righteousness and piety, nor is it played, sung or composed by the pious.

    It does not take a stretch of the imagination to see that music, foolish talk, and most of all obscene behaviour, are inextricable elements of Western (and many Eastern) dances. Moreover, it was never from the actions or commands of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa selem) or his companions or any of the pious generations of the Muslims to ever encourage or participate in such action.
    Taken from the article’The Islamic Ruling on Dancing’
    Prepared by A. Idris Palmer (a convert to Islam)
    May Allah guide us all.

  4. shehzadowaisi July 30, 2012 at 7:23 am #

    Good hmmm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Flash Dance Hits Pakistan « CHUP! – Changing Up Pakistan - April 8, 2010

    […] to blogger Sehar Tariq, the company “has hired groups of young people – both boys and girls – to dance […]

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