Samsul Labdeen Mohomad Rashan stands out among dancers in Sri Lanka. This 25 year old from Kurunegala is the first Muslim Bharatanatyam and Kandyan dancer in the country. And if the sullen disapproval in his increasingly Wahabi community is any indication, he may well be the last Muslim dancer in Lanka.
“My father is a good singer with mastery over many instruments, but he too thinks that dancing is undesirable. My family’s plea is: Do anything but dance!,” Rashan told Express.
But he is unfazed. “I am convinced that I am a good Muslim with sound human values unlike many who sport beards and indulge in immoralities. I pray five times a day. I see no contradiction between dancing and Islam. For me Bharatanatyam is divine,” he said
Ready to face social sanctions, he said: “Perhaps no Muslim may give his daughter to me in marriage, but it is not everything in my life. My commitment is to Bharatanatyam and preservation of its purity and tradition.”
Rashan’s initial exposure was to Sinhalese Kandyan dance. His school’s dance teacher, Indrani Hemalatha, seeing potential in him, made him the principal dancer in her troupe. Rashan went on to bag first prize in an all-Island dance competition hosted by Swarnavahini TV channel. Later, Guru Prageeth Anuradha persuaded him to learn Bharatanatyam under Vasuki Jagadeeswaran at Colombo and thereafter to go to Kalakshetra in Chennai. “At the interview in Kalakshetra I did two or three adavus before Guru Leela Samson, and to my surprise she said that I could be admitted in the second year!” Rashan said.
“At Kalakshetra I not only learnt dance under Srijith Krishna, Shali Vijayan and Suryanarayana Moorthy, but learnt about Hindu religion and culture,” he said. Back in Sri Lanka, Rashan’s ‘Pravaha Foundation’ conducts classes in three towns including Colombo. “But there is no Muslim student, boy or girl, anywhere!” he rued.