Dancing in the Streets of Pakistan, Once More
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 a marketing gimmick in Western countries but I believe 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 foreign 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.
Personal Note : And please no debates over "immoral" and "unislamic".I have never been much of a dancer or a socially liberal guy, but I'd hate if this thread becomes inundated with replies from a moral police brigade. Complaining about MNC's spreading "bad western influence" does no good. Please no moral policing !!!!
And Bhangra would have been more appropriate and more acceptable