Wahab Shah is someone who has been breaking grounds for Salsa and Hip-Hop dance in Pakistan. He believes in bringing about a revolution through his dance and choreography. He has performed with legends like A. R Rehman, Sonu Nigam and Nighat Chaudhary. In a candid talk with the The News Tribe, he spoke about himself and his upcoming projects.
TNT: How did you come into dance and choreography? Tell about your journey.
Wahab: I grew up watching my dad sing in Australia. When I finished my HSC in Sydney, I decided to do train as Actor that led me to TAFE where I studied Acting. My Ballet teacher Tiffany saw a dancer in me and encouraged me to take it up professionally. So took dance training from Sydney dance centre, mango dance studio and hands heart feet Dance Company in virus forms. In 2003 I established my dance company Eastern Flavaz, with first gig performing for Stereo nation then Balvinder Safri, Jazzy B, B21, Sonu Nigam, A R Rehman and list goes on. When I came to Pakistan I was spotted by Faizaan Peerzada who immediately signed me up for performances in festivals. I choreographed opening ceremony of 2007 world performing arts and represented Australia/Pakistan in festivals held in Lahore Islamabad and Karachi. I performed in some international festivals too in Australia, UK, Span, Norway, France, and India which got me international recognition.
It was year 2008 when I choreographed my first musical in Pakistan Bombay Dreams> before that I had choreographed musicals in Sydney that became my forte. I ended up choreographing over eighteen musicals in Pakistan and abroad. I have performed with all the major theater companies of Pakistan from Ajoka, Center Stage, Copy Kats, Hazzar Dastaan and some others too.
I currently run a dance studio in Lahore offering dance classes and training next generation of dancers.
TNT: What are your main dance influences and what kinds of dances you love to perform?
Wahab: Modern and contemporary dance are my styles of training. My influence is the Sufi culture and movement so I do try and keep myself anchored by doing that. I love Salsa and Hip Hop and I have done majority of public performances in these styles.
TNT: What main obstacles you faced in Pakistan being a dance performer?
Wahab: Pakistan is a land where everything is possible as long as you have the drive to thrive. I haven’t faced any major obstacles but I have faced financial survival. Dance is still not looked upon as professorial fields therefore not many people want to venture into it as dancers so for a client to be convinced that dancers are professionals we have to go an extra mile to explain and convince for rightful remunerations.
TNT: Say a few lines on state of art in Pakistan.
Wahab: With good art institutions and good education only, arts can go forward. The more we have the better it is for survival of the arts in Pakistan.
TNT: Tell about your latest project and upcoming ones too.
Wahab: I am currently working on a musical based on lost era of Lollywood. It’s a series of dance videos and most important project of my life ‘Wahab Shah Dance Company’.
TNT: Also talk about the kind of audience that you have.
Wahab: As a performer I am open to all spectra of audiences. My job is to tell stories, and that too, to the best of my abilities, I will never cheat myself or my audiences therefore the power rested in me to dance will always generate fuel for those who seek arts as light.
TNT: What main difference you find between film choreography and the one you do? If given a chance, would you opt for film choreography?
Wahab: There is no real difference at all. Choreography is designed with concepts and ability to portray the requirements. Our choreographers of the film are merely limited to demands, finances, budgets, and concepts. I have been offered to choreograph films but I will only choreograph if the director feels that there is a need to upgrade from clinched ‘thumka‘ to a more meaningful and advance choreography.
TNT: You would like to perform with whom and why?
Wahab: In Pakistan I would love to choreographer Deedaar. She has the ability to understand and adapt to modern moment and he agility as a dancer is phenomenal. Internationally I would love to perform with Akram Khan Dance Company.
TNT: What is your message to readers?
Wahab: If you feel that Pakistani dancing is limited to ‘thumka’ and shaking, think again. Come and join my dance classes and be part of Wahab Shah Dance Organization. We are looking for people who can understand and really make a difference.