Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


IN-PERSON IAS Talking Points Seminar: 'Creating a National Dance'

24 February 2022, 6:30 pm–8:30 pm


We welcome Dr Priyanka Basu (IAS) on her lecture 'Creating a National Dance: Performance, Decolonisation and Cultural Work in Early Pakistan (1947-53)'. Respondent: Professor Ann R David and Dr Hélène Neveu Kringelbach.

This event is free.

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Institute of Advanced Studies


IAS Common Ground
Ground floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building
United Kingdom

In the immediate aftermath of the Indian Independence, Partition, and the creation of the new nation-state of Pakistan, dancers Bulbul and Afroza Chowdhury embarked with a mission of creating a new dance idiom and a national dance for the nascent nation. Their vision encompassed an ‘Inter-Asia’ methodology and a strong critique of colonisation that was visible in the choreographies they staged in East and West Pakistan and during their tour in Europe in 1953. The decolonising politics of these choreographies was particularly evident in the staging of choreographies on the Bengal Famine of 1943 that was orchestrated by the colonial British government. The dances also looked deep into the folk narratives and performances in the newly built Pakistan to create a national dance that represented the multiple cultural, religious, and linguistic identities. The cultural work initiated by Bulbul and Afroza was carried on in different strands in Pakistan, Bangladesh and even in the UK where Afroza immigrated after the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War and continued to teach dance in a school in East London. This paper draws on various archival resources, oral interviews, photographs of performances and performers’ memoirs to understand the trans-national history of dance as cultural work. More importantly, it looks at cultural labour through the lens of gender and migrant lives to understand the inter-connected cultural politics of performance in South Asia and the UK.


Dr Priyanka Basu

(Visiting Research Fellow at the IAS)


Professor Ann R David

(Professor of Dance and Cultural Engagement, University of Roehampton)

Dr Helene Neveu Kringelbach

(Associate Professor of African Anthropology and Vice Dean for Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (Faculty of Arts & Humanities))

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