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Farah Yasmeen Shaikh’s portrayal of Empress Noor Jahan – Unforgettable!

Internationally renowned kathak artist, Farah Yasmeen Shaikh in Asia Society of Texas - Performing Asia presentation The Forgotten Empress co-presented by EnActe Arts Photo credit: Lynn Lane

Internationally renowned kathak artist, Farah Yasmeen Shaikh in Asia Society of Texas – Performing Asia presentation The Forgotten Empress co-presented by EnActe Arts Photo credit: Lynn Lane.

by Shobana Muratee
Inspired by and compelled to shine a light on the extraordinary life of Moghul Empress Noor Jahan, acclaimed Kathak artist Farah Yasmeen Shaikh gave a riveting performance in “The Forgotten Empress”, presented by the Asia Society Texas Center on Friday, April 20 and Saturday, April 21 evenings. The dance drama portrays the remarkable ways in which the Empress in 16th century Mughal India wielded her influence in a male-dominated empire – unparalleled in history – but which has remained forgotten.
A collaborative project of Asia Society Texas Center and EnActe Arts, the dance drama was masterpiece of playwright and director Mathew Spangler and his team of world renowned musicians (Tabla, Harmonium and Vocals: : Music Director: Salar Nader, Sarood: Ben Kunin, , Violin: Raginder Singh Momi, Vocals: Deepti Warrie and Storyteller: Sukanya Chakrabarti supported by the production team: Jack Beuttler, Drew Kaufman, and Jerry Girard). Shaikh changed into 13 costumes during her performance which were the creations of wardrobe experts Zeba and Meera.
Stephanie Todd Wong, Director of Performing Arts & Culture Asia Society Texas Center introduced the artist and thanked the national sponsor NEFA and other sponsors . It took two years of planning before the project was brought to Houston by Asia Society. “Stories like this must be told, must be shared. Without presenters and an audience to share those stories with, they are nothing. We appreciate that you are ensuring that Empress Noor Jahan is never forgotten,” Shaikh said at the conclusion.
Shaikh encapsulated the golden era of Emperor Akbar, his conquests, and dominance, with her robust footwork and expressions juxtaposing with the sublime and graceful expressions of the Persian beauty Mehr-un-Nissa, who later became the Empress Noor Jahan.

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“It is impressive how well the dancer tells a story through her movements, her facial expressions. And how well the musicians reflect the dancer’s emotions and enhance the story,” observed Isabel Van Dyke, about the show that evening.
Earlier, on Tuesday, April 17, Shaikh conducted an Introductory Kathak Workshop for students to experience the various aspects of kathak in a ‘format that contextualizes the music, movement, etiquette, and history that surrounds the dance form even in modern day’, the program indicated.


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