"Dance is the mother of art, a beauty that is divine."
Male Bangladeshi dancers have been consistently making a difference within the South Asian dance industry.
What makes these Bangladeshi dancers the best, you may ask. Well, they have dedicated much of their life to dance as well as embraced the richness of many Desi dance forms.
They have all provided the artistic landscape with their unique moves, which all tell personal stories.
These male dancers exude dedication, richness and elegance when gracing the stage.
Not only are they portraying the culture of South Asia, but they are also positively impacting the future of budding dancers.
DESIblitz reveals the top 8 male Bangladeshi dancers who deserve recognition for their decades of service to this art form.
Bazlur Rahman Badal
Bazlur Rahman Badal was a dancer who migrated to Bangladesh after the partition. Born 1921 in the Jalpaiguri district in Bengal, British India, Bazlur dedicated most of his life to dance.
In his 20s, the artist moved from Rangpur to Rajshahi in Bangladesh and gradually began his training.
Taught by his guru who was known as ‘Dukhu Master’, Bazlur used intricate movements and silky spins to entice those around him.
Eventually, he became well known for specialising in folk dance and notable for his dance composition of the poem Bidrohi by Kazi Nazrul Islam.
Bidrohi was a popular revolutionary poem that saw the need for human creativity and the abolishment of oppression.
As the piece was uniquely heroic and heartfelt, Bazlur used these feelings in all of his performances. Later, he would apply these same intimate emotions to his teachings towards students.
This appreciation of literature, expression and flair went unnoticed. In 2014, the artist was awarded the ‘Shilpakala Padak.’
The Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy awards this prize to recognise those figures who have contributed fantastically to theatre, music, dance and so forth.
Impressively, Bazlur has created many dances to poems. He finally earned the ‘Independence Award’ in 2017 under the dance category by the Bangladesh government.
Bazlur may not have had the most prolific accomplishments, but what makes him stand out is his willingness to dance for around seventy years.
He sadly left this world in Rajshahi, Bangladesh on August 19, 2018.
Gauhar Jamil was a Bangladeshi dancer and dance director who was born in 1925 in the village of Sirajdikhan.
He was passionate about dancing and was drawn towards it ever since childhood after takings lessons for a long period with many different teachers.
Some incredible names in the dancing fraternity who taught this passionate individual were Uday Shankar and Sharbashree Maruthappa Pillai.
As an advocate for classical dance forms, Jamil was extremely elegant in the way he constructed his performances.
Not only was he confident, but he encompassed a South Asian richness that left onlookers mesmerised.
Jamil was an amazing dancer who also choreographed dance dramas. A few examples of his immense shows include Samanya Kati and Anarkali.
He was an astonishing man with great achievements such as when he founded the dance school, Jago Art Centre.
This shows how committed Jamil was to helping Bangladeshi dancers thrive in the future. He was determined to pass on his knowledge so dance could carry on evolving.
Unfortunately, he passed away at the age of fifty-five on September 21, 1980, due to a road accident.
But he did receive the ‘Ekushey Padak’ in 1981 and the Bangladesh government issued a postage stamp of Jamil in 2001.
Gazi Alimuddin Mannan
Gazi was one amongst the few male Bangladeshi dancers and choreographers to create new forms of dancing, including the ‘spring dance’ and the ‘fishermen’s dance.’
Born in Cumilla, Chittagong, Gazi was a majestic mover who combined styles like Indian classical dance with folk.
Before adopting the unique forms, he received training in Bombay from Shantibardhanm, a colleague of the dancing guru, Uday Shankar.
Interestingly, whilst training in Bombay, he adopted the stage name, Manish Kumar.
Soon, Gazi shortened his stay in Bombay and headed for Dhaka to join the Bulbul Lailtakala Academy where he created great exotic performances.
These styles were symbolic of the different settings that Gazi was exposed to and incorporated the culture of the countries he toured.
His unique genres were expressed through the dramas he created. Most notably, Gazi choreographed a ballet drama on Tagore’s Ksudhita Pasan.
Not only did this emphasise Gazi’s artistry but how diverse his dance knowledge was. Many of these styles are used within modern arenas in remembrance of his creativity and imagination.
In addition, Gazi also worked as a dance director of triumphant performing arts academies.
These included but were not limited to the Bangladesh Performing Arts Academy and the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy.
The work ethic of Gazi was outstanding. He did not aim to please others but aimed to please himself through dance.
His story is quite inspiring to the younger generation due to the concept that he may not have achieved any awards but continued to evolve his craft.
Gazi took his last breath in this world on March 1, 1990.
One of the greatest male Bangladeshi dancers is Amanul Haque. Although Amanul started his career in West Pakistan, he later moved to Dhaka which made him a prominent star amongst Bangladeshis.
Amanul’s work ethic towards dance was unbelievable as he dedicated much of his life to working towards his goal as a dancer.
After witnessing the flair of Ghanashyam Das Lakshman Bijoy at the National Cricket Stadium, Karachi, in 1959, Amanul was hooked.
He started taking kuchpudi and manipuri dance lessons from Ghanashyam and his spouse, Nileema. This initiated his career across South Asia.
Amanul was even gripped by the style of Bubul Chowdhury, which escalated his depth of knowledge even more. This was highlighted when Amanul made an appearance on Karachi television in 1964.
He was the first dancer from East Pakistan to feature on Karachi TV, which solidified the giant strides he was making.
Besides the stage, Amanul was also impacting cinema. He was the dance director of his debut film titled Neela Parbat (1969), which soon led to him joining Barin Mazumder’s music college in 1966.
All of Amanul’s hard work soon steered him to producing outstanding works, including Jolche Agun Khete Khamare (1967) and Mukhi Matara.
His choreographies were based upon the community and vibrancy of a Desi culture. He was a big advocate for freedom and thought inspirational dances would bring forward his message.
Nashid Kamal of The Daily Star beautifully described Amanul’s motives in 2016:
“He was always involved with progressive ideas and sought to free his people from injustice.”
“Amanul lived and breathed freedom, channelling his creative energies to produce inspirational dance dramas that highlighted the common man’s dream.”
Amanul was repaid with terrific awards. Amongst his collection are the ‘Ekushey Padak Award’ (2016), the ‘Bulbul Chowdhury Award’, and ‘Shilpa Kala Award’ (2013).
Impressively, Amanul is a prominent name in the Bangladesh cultural scene and has raised the overall standard of dance across the country.
Golam Mostafa Khan
Golam Mostafa Khan was an amazing male Bangladeshi dancer who was born on March 3, 1931.
The magnificent artist was a low-key character who did not heavily adore the dancing limelight in Bangladesh.
Having dedicated years to learning the historic value of classical dance styles, he was able to carry this forward in his own productions.
As an avid member of Bangladeshi dance, Golam was known for his humble teachings and pride within South Asian culture.
This is why he has an impressive catalogue of prizes to recognise his motivation for dance. Some of these include the ‘Shilpakala Padak’ (2016) which was given to him by the Bangladeshi Shilpakala Academy and the ‘Ekushey Padak’ (2020).
These were atomising achievements that were earned by Golam, especially when he was in his 80s.
Relentless festivals are being held where young individuals are grasping the concept of Golam’s dance techniques and apply them to more modern songs.
For example, in 2014, Shaon Mostafa gave an intimate performance in Los Angeles of one of Golam’s choreographies.
She eloquently fluttered across the stage and the audience could see shades of Golam ooze through each move.
Golam sadly passed away on January 17, 2021, from a brain stroke but is well celebrated within the modern world.
Shibli Mohammed is one of the most celebrated male Bangladeshi dancers. He is a well-known performer and choreographer, specialising in the majestic dance form of kathak.
Shibli had plenty of training at Chhayanaut in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This is an institute that was founded in 1961 and celebrates Bengali culture, including dance.
Here, he received monumental training from the likes of Kartic Sing and Ajit Dey. This led to Shibli being awarded an Indian government scholarship to train in Lucknow, India.
Unsurprisingly, he got invited to learn kathak from the guru of this dance form, Pundit Biriju Maharaj.
Talking to The Daily Star in 2017, Shibli expressed why he chose dance:
“Dance is the mother of art, a beauty that is divine.
“It is an international language which can express the immense depth of joy, anger, sorrow and so on.”
Impressively, Shibli tends to abide by this emotion. He is a leading exponent of classical Indian dance, who has become famous for mixing traditional and modern dance forms.
An example of this is when he fused classical kathak with more modern styles such as ballet, a genre he learnt at the London Ballet Theatre School.
This ended up in Shibli achieving many prestigious awards, including the ‘Bachschash Award’ and the ‘UNESCO Award’ for the ‘Best Bangladeshi dancer’.
What makes Shibli so unique is the way he expresses himself through his magnificent body spins. Along with captivating hand gestures and graceful facial expressions, his performances are magical.
Shibli became the principal male dancer at the Shilpakala, before running a television show titled Tarana with the most wonderful Shamim Ara Nipa since 2007.
Amir Hossain Babu
One of the most prolific male Bangladeshi dancers was Amir Hossain Babu. Not only was Amir a terrific product of kathak dance, but he took his creativity further than the stage.
Amir was the first male Bangladeshi dancer and choreographer to ever earn a ‘Bangladesh National Film Award’ for the ‘Best Choreography’, twice.
This was for his outstanding performances in the films Beporoya (1992) and Meghla Akash (2001).
In addition to helping South Asian cinema progress with dance elements, Amir was also a visionary in scouting talent.
He discovered the amazing actor Ferdous Ahmed who starred in Nach Moyuri Nach (1997). This emphasised how involved and delicate Amir was with choosing those who represented his choreographies.
Additionally, Babu created and contributed to a lot of films. These included Ovagi (1975), Danga (1991) and Bikkhov (1994).
Babu was one of the most celebrated Bangladeshi dancers and choreographers.
Numerous dancers came together and paid their tribute to the late freedom fighter in 2019 at a programme titled ‘Raktey Bheja Bangladesh.’
This was organised by the Amir Hossain Babu Dance Academy.
The students entertained the audience with colourful dance recitals, where they commenced the show with a group dance performance synchronised with a patriotic song.
Then they involved dance recitals with popular playback songs like ‘Tumi Mor Jiboner Bhabona’ (1997).
Although Amir’s rise in dance is subdued compared to others on this list, his emphatic work remains an invaluable addition to Bangladeshi dance.
His work was more cinema focused but that did not stop Amir from infiltrating movies with the swirls, legwork and grace of Desi dance styles.
Tanjil Alam is one of the most professional male Bangladeshi dancers and choreographers. Fusing classical and modern dance techniques, Tanjil has created a new wave of dance within Bangladesh.
Tanjil’s career as an inspiring dancer only began in 1996 with multiple performances on stage and television.
Fortunately, this incredible young individual was able to form the Eagles Dance Group with Sumon Rahman and two others in 1999.
As the dance troupe grew, they started to showcase their amazing routines across different platforms.
Tanjil and his group were different. They still had the colour, flashiness and impact of classical styles but incorporated more urban techniques for an evolving audience.
However, what sticks out about Tanjil is his unity and perfection on stage. This is highlighted on The Eagles Dance Group website:
“[The Eagles Dance Group] still remains notably grounded, welcoming and dedicated to the highest level of service and instruction.”
Tanjil’s work ethic allowed him to actively work under the company banner whilst working as a choreographer for music videos and films.
The most popular ones are ‘Chumma’ (2018) Amar Praner Priya (2009) and Lal Lipstick (2019).
For Amar Praner Priya, Tanjil won the ‘Bangladesh National Film Award’ for ‘Best Choreography’ in 2009.
Furthermore, Tanjil’s outstanding choreography to the music video ‘Chumma’ included many hand gestures to represent the meaning of the lyrics.
This is a unique approach to choreography that is beneficial for others. Particularly, for those who do not understand the language, Desi movements are profound in symbolising meaning.
As Tanjil and his dance institute redefine Bangladeshi dance, fans are eagerly anticipating what performance he will come up with next.
All of these male Bangladeshi dancers have been awarded numerous outstanding awards for their amazing commitment to dance.
Their goals have further inspired numerous budding artists for decades and they aim to celebrate dance in all its glory.
These men all hold much success and creativity that has positively impacted the Bangladeshi dance standard forever.
However, what’s powerful about all of these dancers is their ability to remain humble.
Not only is this an ode to their South Asian heritage but an ideology they have instilled in their students, which is no one is bigger than dance.