Culture: An Overview of Folk Dances in Pakistan
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May 13, 2011
The society and culture of Pakistan comprises numerous diverse cultures and ethnic groups: the Punjabis, Kashmiris, Sindhis in east, Muhajirs, Makrani in the south; Baloch and Pashtun in the west; and the ancient Dardic, Wakhi and Burusho communities in the north. These Pakistani cultures have been greatly influenced by many of the surrounding countries' cultures, such as the Turkic peoples, Persian, Afghan, and Indians of South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East.

Pakistani society is largely multilingual, multi-ethnic and multicultural. Though cultures within the country differ to some extent, more similarities than differences can be found, as most Pakistanis are mainly of Aryan heritage or have coexisted side by side along the Indus River for several thousand years, or both. However, over 60 years of integration, a distinctive "Pakistani" culture has sprung up, especially in the urban areas where many of the diverse ethnic groups have coexisted and in many cases, intermarried.

Pakistani dances, just like music is very much a part of Pakistani lives. Dances are not only for entertainment purposes but they encompass the lives of people because dances in Pakistan are celebratory and ceremonial in nature.

Dances are traditionally part of the lives of people especially in Pakistan. Dance for Pakistanis is so important that people can communicate with each other and tell a story without uttering a word but rather dancing to send those messages.

There are different Pakistan dances and they are likewise fusion of many different influences. Folk dances are still popular in Pakistan and vary according to region such as:

• Bhangra -Punjab
• Luddi - Punjab
• Dhammal - Performed at Sufi shrines/ dargahs in Punjab and Sindh
• Attan - Folk dance of Pashtuns tribes of Pakistan including the unique styles of Quetta and Waziristan
• Khattak Dance - Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
• Jhumar - Siraiki and Balochi folk dance
• Ho Jamalo Sindhi dance
• Lewa - Baluchi folk dance

Folk dance on the other hand is often celebratory and seasonal in nature. Folk dances are used to celebrate child birth, wedding, spiritual or religious ritual and is likewise used for community knowledge.

The structure is often loose and steps are somewhat simple. There are different interpretations of Pakistan folk dance in every region but they are often in sync with folk music usually played with special instruments.

Dance if very important for most people and Pakistan dances are common staples of festivals and celebrations. Knowing those steps and intricate movements are a dream to the younger generation.

Dancing is perhaps one form of art that has received the least support both from the people as well as the patronisers. Yet, there are many forms of dances, both classical and folk that have survived this ordeal, and in fact, are showing some signs of new renaissance in Pakistan.

While folk dances are usually associated with rural folk and are expressed as the happiness of people on a successful harvest, in Pakistan, there are many folk dances which are associated with martial skills and preparedness for fighting a war. To the first category belong dances like Bhangra, while to the second category belong dances like Khattan and Attan.

On the other hand, there also exist classical dances which are highly refined, with illustrious dedicated teachers, with a lot of emphasis on rules and traditional purity. These include Kathak, a less pure but more practised form of which is called Mujra, though many disagree with this view and hold it a dance in its own category.

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