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TEST PROGRAM / Mushtari Afroz

Mushtari Afroz

  • a person with a bindi looking up at the camera

Shifting Normal’ is a 27-minute COVID-19 responsive dance theatre film work made for the camera for digital dissemination. The creation process took about 5 months from April to August. The full film was curated by Ethnocultural Art History Research Group at Concordia University for its BIPOC exhibition ‘HEAR US NOW!’ in September.

I am submitting a 3-min excerpt here – a segment that specifically speaks to me about the burden of confinement and how as a dance artist I responded to it by exploring new possibilities.


Normality is an illusion just like a mirage. Giving us a sense of comfort for a short while, then it disappears before reappearing in a new form. Transient, unstable and on a continuous journey like a river it shifts our life’s trajectory, contorts our purpose, and throws us into the abyss of whirlpool while renewing us for a new time. This elusive journey has been continuing since the dawn of human civilization.The question is ‘is the human species capable of adapting to the continuously shifting normal?’

COVID-19 is now our reality and in the future, the slow-burning crisis of climate change will take that place. Are artists resilient enough to turn these dark ruptures in life into inspirations to courageously re-imagine creativity that will stand the test of uncertain times to give hope to the future of quintessentially human art forms?


Mushtari was introduced to Bengali folk dance at a young age in Dhaka, Bangladesh, her hometown. Her training in the North Indian Classical Dance form ‘Kathak’ began when she immigrated to Canada in early 2000. After studying with her first Guru Joanna De Souza she received advanced training in Lucknow gharana of Kathak under the tutelage of Ms. Saveeta Sharma. She also studied Jaipur gharana of Kathak under the tutelage of Mr. Hemant Panwar. Funding from Canada Council for the Arts and UK’s Milapfest Foundation helped her pursue training in Kathak with Pandit Birju Maharaj and Ms. Aditi Mangaldas in Liverpool, UK. Motivated by her interest in contemporary art she also studied with some of the leading contemporary choreographers in Canada and abroad. In her current artistic practice, she is driven by her interest in stories – stories that are embodied, that are personal and yet universal. Through them, she experiences the transformation of the human psyche and enters our collective memory of events that shape our lives. In her artistic journey as a performer and a choreographer, she aims to share those stories through the artistic languages she has available at her disposal.

In 2016 Mushtari established Kathak Bandi Dance Collective that collaborates with Canadian artists to create works that celebrate human stories and experience through dance, music and theatre. Its original works have been presented at Citadel+ Compagnie, Dance Matters, Abhinayam Dance Network, HH11 Dance Festival USA, Aeris Korper Dance Series, CPAMO Fall Gathering, MUSE Arts, and Asian Heritage Month Festival to name a few.

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