"AND SHE DANCES ON…" directed by Shireen Pasha, focuses on the life and work of choreographer/dancer Tehreema Mitha in Pakistan. Released in 1996, this hour long documentary film was funded by The Royal Netherlands and The Royal Norwegian Embassies in Pakistan. This was the first documentary ever made about dance and a dancer from, and in, Pakistan. A second documentary on Tehreema Mitha, "The Vigil", by Arya Surowidjojo was released in 2011.
Tehreema Mitha was born and raised in Pakistan, the daughter of the late Mj. Gen A.O. Mitha (HJ) and Indu Mitha. Tehreema Mitha started her dance training at the age of seven under the tutelage of her guru/mother, Mrs Indu Mitha. Indu Mitha is a shishya of Srmt. Lalitha Shastri who trained in the first batch of students from Rukmini Devi's Kalakshetra school of dance. Srmt. Lalitha was also the first South Indian Bharatanatym dance teacher to teach in the North.
Indu Mitha developed and taught a secular form of Bharatanatym in the 1950's, using North Indian music to accompany the dance. As a professional choreographer and dancer, Tehreema Mitha has carried on this tradition, bringing more universal themes to the blend, with the music more closely tied to the movements. Ms. Mitha also performs Classical/Contemporary and Contemporary dances. She presented her first contemporary dance in 1991 and has continued to do more in this style as well. With 27 years of choreography and performance to her name now, she has over 60 dances in her repertoire.
Making her debut in 1986 at a two hour solo performance at The Goethe Institut, Lahore, Ms. Mitha began her dance career under the puritanical Martial law regime of Zia-ul-Haq. Despite political and cultural obstacles, Tehreema Mitha persevered to grow and perform at home and abroad.
Tehreema Mitha and William Barron started a Dance Company in Pakistan in 1992 named, Tehreema Aabvaan Dance Productions (TADP). They also conceived of, and planned, the first ever National Dance Festival of Pakistan, to be developed into a Biannual International Dance Festival in Pakistan. Ms. Mitha and her husband was also responsible for securing the funding for this ongoing endeavor, then handing over the production of the two festivals to Rafi Peer Theater in 1995. TADP presented not only dance performances, but also concerts of classical music in Islamabad which were free for the public.
The documentary was filmed over a period of several months in in 1995. It follows Tehreema Mitha's struggles as a Muslim dancer performing a dance style more associated with Hinduism and India. She faces bigotry mostly from those who have never seen dance at all and specifically from those who have never seen her dance. Her contemporary work breaks new barriers, totally apart from the aesthetic and training of modern dance in the west and something totally new for South Asia. Her music, always specially composed for each dance, is part of her creative process, as are the costumes that are also designed by her. Students learning dance are shown in his film, as well as a quick view of the crew during shooting.
The outdoor filming of some of the dances in places of historic significance for the area are unusual and special, enhancing the appeal of this documentary.
The film places her work in the context of a changing society in Pakistan and presents her life surrounded by a warm supportive family.
There are sections from various of Ms. Mitha's dances in the documentary, some solo some with her ensemble, showing a little of the thought behind the creation of each piece. Glimpses of the following dances are included in the documentary: The Vigil (Ratt Jagga), Tillana Desh Malhaar, Wa'I: A Dance of Bereavement, The Death Rattle, The Obsession (Khabt Sawar Whoa), The Dance of The Soul (Raqs-e-Rooh), Rutt Malhaar Ki Reet and The Children's Dance (Hum Sabhi Aisay).
The film also features renowned Pakistani classical vocalist Ustad Hamid Ali Khan and the renowned sitar nawaz, Ashraf Shareef Khan, along with Shabir Hussain on Tabla, during the recording of specially composed music for the contemporary dance, Dhiyaan, choreographed by Tehreema Mitha.
Guru Indu Mitha at the age of 83 continues to teach dance in Pakistan. Tehreema Mitha is the Artistic Director, choreographer/dancer with Tehreema Mitha Dance Company based in the United States.
Ms. Mitha moved to the U.S. In 1997. She continues to visit Pakistan to perform and hold dance workshops.
Even though technology has moved on, this film has often been described by film-makers as A Classic.