Losing the final dance-off

LAHORE: Limber dancers often showcase their athletic prowess as they flaunt their skills in competitions. Be it ballet or hip-hop, dance can enliven any stage. But Lahore offers a whole diverse breed of dance form.

It was in the early and mid 2000s, that the trend of setting up exclusive stage shows reached its peak. Dance performances, in fact, became seminal to the thriving commercial theatre of the city. The dancing got admired to such an extent that the script lost its significance and the stage was enveloped by performers busting out dance moves. It was then that stage actors such as Nargis, Hina, Shaheen, Shahzadi, Saima Khan, Khushboo, Mehga, Nida Chaudhry, Qismat Baig and Mahnoor decided to shift to a more lucrative medium — CDs.

While some thespians were already banned from stage performances on claims of spreading vulgarity, the amplified production budget of releasing these dance numbers proved to be the final nail in the coffin. As a consequence, no such CDs are being released this Eid.

Reflecting upon the matter, Qismat Baig, a stage actor told The Express Tribune, “Stage actors are not releasing dance performance CDs because of the high budget.” She added, “These are proper dance shows that are choreographed and shot in expensive hotels. It costs around Rs1 to Rs1.5 million to compile one CD and there are hardly any sales — these factors are discouraging their production.”

On the current status of the commercial theatre, she states, “Dance is still popular during stage shows but only if it’s not vulgar. People from educated families still come to watch the stage shows and also buy CDs.”

Ali Raza, a stage producer, reminisced about the days when the production of dance CDs was all the rage. He notes, “Like films, stage actors were also enthusiastic about launching their dance performance CDs on Eid. They would hire the best of producers and choreographers; choose the best locations, including five star hotels and film studios in order to shoot.”

Though the trend of releasing CDs didn’t last too long, audiences still want to see dance performances in the commercial theatre, claims Raza.

Reaping the financial benefits, many actors bid farewell to stage shows and began focusing completely on CDs. In 2003, Nargis, who is considered to be the pioneer of this trend, made a record by selling around 200,000 copies of her dance compilation CD, titled Welcome Nargis. Apart from Nargis, other performers such as Khushboo, Deedar and Nida Chaudhry were also popular among dance enthusiasts, which lead to massive sales particularly during Eid season.

The demise of the trend of releasing dance CD’s on Eid means the termination of a steady income for many investors, technicians and dancers. But the tech-savvy consumer of today has acquired another method of acquiring these dance recordings — the mobile phone.

The dance shows can also be accessed by visiting your nearest mobile phone shop owner, who will copy and transfer these shows directly on to your cell phone.

“Since we were already downloading songs from the internet and copying them into customers mobile phones; treating these dance shows the same seemed like a natural progression,” says Wasif Khalid, a mobile shop owner in Lahore.

Since the margin for revenue generation via cell phones is too small, it cannot be considered an alternate release medium that could replace CDs. Mobile shop owners get a hold of these recordings by ripping CDs or downloading these performances illegally.

“We do have certain packages for our customers. For example there is a package worth Rs300 in which you get a complete dance performance and some Bollywood songs,” said Khalid.

Consumer wise, the shortcoming to this cheap alternative is that none of the dance shows being transferred to mobile phones are newly produced. They either feature older dance shows or re-edited versions of the same. But for now, no new content is being generated.

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