Contemporary dancer Natasha Bakht new piece “786” incorporates choreography from different genres: Bharatanatyam, the traditional Indian dance known for rigid limbs, Kalaripayattu, an Indian marital arts discipline, and contemporary dance.
“Her Bharatanatyam training, along with her understanding of contemporary movement, has a beautiful way of coming out of her body naturally,” says Ilter Ibrahimof, artistic director of Fall for Dance North. “She’s a very precise, clean performer and that’s generally what speaks to me in dance.”
Ms. Bakht hails from India but now lives in Canada and says her Muslim identity very much informed “786” – from even the title which is the first phrase in the Qu’ran, “Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim” (which is Arabic for “In the name of God, most gracious, most compassionate”).
“This piece for me is the life of a busy urban Muslim who takes five times a day to pray and acknowledge the divine,” says the dancer. “I wanted that real sense of sacredness at moments in the piece, but I also wanted there to be the sense of myself and the musicians really grooving.”
The part-time dancer, who is also a law professor at the University of Ottawa,
says she unfortunately doesn’t see a lot of Muslim-identified performers represented in the Canadian arts. “There’s a sense that Muslims are not artistic; they are not musicians and not dancers…. There are multiple stories when it comes to Muslims and here’s one. And it’s a positive one.”