CHENNAI: That Sufi Whirling or Sufi Spinning was a form of Sama, a Sufi ritual ceremony or a way of meditation to reach out to the almighty was more than established on Tuesday night when members of the Ability Unlimited Foundation performed. Sufi Dance on Wheelchairs, a first of its kind, had four differently -abled Sufi Spinners performing the most graceful dance on their wheelchairs.
Choreographed by Guru Syed Sallauddin Pasha, revered as the ‘Father of Indian Therapeutic Theatre for Persons with Disabilities’, the sequence was danced to soulful, authentic Sufi music that was recorded in Turkey. Tracing the evolution of Persian Sufism, the involvement of the dancers matched the words of their guru before the performance began. “We don’t perform, we don’t entertain, we meditate,” said Pasha.
Dressed in the traditional white outfit and tall brown hats meant for Sufi dance, the dancers moved with such panache, that the audience seemed to have forgotten that the wheelchairs were on stage for a reason and not as mere props.
As the dancers used their tremendous upper body strength to spin their wheelchairs, they merged into a blur of movements and it was evident that they were dancing from their hearts, to attain kemal (a stage of perfection). They let go of themselves and competed with each other on stage, to see who could spin faster and get their white outfits to twirl in fury around them. At times, even as they used their free hand to strike a graceful pose, the other hand that was used to man their wheelchairs was not missed. As the tempo of the popular Sufi song Khwaja mere khwaja increased, the will power and upper body strength of the dancers also grew, urging them to keep spinning.
Some of them murmured the lyrics to the songs, some of them sang them open-throat, lost in the music. Though they did bump into each other from time to time, the precision and control that they had on the wheelchairs was proof enough of their dedication and the amount of time they put into rehearsing their routine.
The highlight of the evening, apart from when they formed a wheelchair train, was when two of the dancers built up momentum on their wheelchairs and let go, gliding like white spirits on stage. Concluding his show with the Bhagavad Gita, Pasha promised to come back next year to Chennai with a full length dance drama. The show was part of an awareness national campaign ‘Celebrating Abilities’.