Dhaka, July 26 (UNB) - Having been kept alive by a special initiative of Bangladesh Shilapakala Academy, the fledgling discipline of acrobatics in the country may finally be set to take flight.
The budding acrobats of Bangladesh were left high and dry in the early 2000s as funding dried up for the nurture and development of this unique discipline that combines elements of artistry and athleticism.
In time all forms of financial (private and public) and technical (training programs, facilities) support were withdrawn, rendering wasted the years of work and training dedicated towards developing themselves as acrobats.
It also left their futures uncertain.
That is when the BSA stepped in to lend the acrobats, who have always been regarded more as performing artists than athletes here, a lifeline. Today they can be said to have been vindicated in the test of time.
Bangladesh’s first Acrobatic Training Center was established in Rajbari under the management of BSA in 1994. At the same time, a core group of acrobats was formed to train at the ATC under the tutelage of a Korean.
Liaquat Ali Lucky, presently Director General of BSA said “After the completion of the Fine and Performing Art Training Project in 2000, the group was forced to discontinue their training, not to mention any exhibition shows they arranged, due to the lack of funds.”
But after years of neglect, in 2011 BSA revived the acrobatic team of Rajbari Acrobatic Training Center, forming an adult group of acrobats, performing under the banner of 'Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy Acrobatic troupe'.
“In the first phase of 2012, a number of exhibitions and two acrobatics workshops were organized,” the Shilpakala Academy boss said.
The first workshop was held at the revived Acrobatic Training Center, Rajbari with the participation of 50 children. A second such workshop with the participation of 72 children was held at the National Gallery Centre of BSA in Dhaka.
In further activity, the Department of Theatre and Film at BSA organised 93 exhibitions for the troupe covering all 64 districts of the country, in 2013-14 (the BSA annual calendar corresponds to the government’s July 1-June 30 fiscal). Five workshops were also organized, in Dhaka and some other districts.
“The Shilpakala Academy took these positive steps to keep them on track when the artists were forced to leave this profession and take jobs in different shops or factories for lack of allocation in the budget,” BSA DG said.
Lucky also said “The academy allocated some money from its own funds to keep the acrobats active in their discipline. They were given some remuneration for training and workshops. And this effort has helped us protect acrobatics from extinction.”
BSA officials said that in 2015-2016 the Acrobatic Exhibition continued being held across the country while seven new artists were added to the BSA Acrobatic Group on merit. This was crucial as it meant the torch could now be passed on to another generation. Add the feedback the squad has received throughout the country during its exhibitions portends a bright future.
A respectable number of exhibitions, 79, were completed in the district and upazila levels throughout Bangladesh in 2015-16. But it was really last year, down in the books as 2016-17, that the potential of acrobatics as a popular discipline really blossomed.
Officials of the academy said that the BSA Acrobatics troupe organized nearly three hundred exhibitions throughout the length and breadth of Bangladesh in 2016-17, which were very well appreciated and said to be inspiring for future acrobats.
“Recently 20 children went to China for higher acrobatic training. Ten artists returning from China with higher training are now performing while the remaining 10 are taking training. So there is no more fear of acrobatics facing extinction, or acrobats becoming useless in Bangladesh anymore,” the DG relayed.
Yet that bright future everyone hopes for may depend on to what extent it chooses to embrace its athletic side in Bangladesh, particularly the competitive fervour. The world over, acrobats find their ultimate fulfilment in competing for their event at the Olympic Games, where acrobatics is a popular and regular fixture The budding acrobats of Bangladesh will do well to embrace that dream.