Interview: Hazan D
Hazan D is a banker by day, and a dancer by night. His passion for salsa dancing has brought a taste of Latin America to the city by the sea – and to his workplace. There are times when you may find him tapping his feet while working on an excel sheet at his office, or if you head into ActOne, you may see him juggling accounts while conducting classes. Hazan D is a co-founder of ActOne, a one-stop shop for dance enthusiasts which offers classes in salsa, hip hop, Bollywood and other genres and it also houses a day-care facility for children whose parents want to let their hair down and shake a leg.
A young man, who is obviously very brainy, spends all his free time salsa dancing. How come?
Brainy? I refuse to be termed that! I was never brainy, just street smart. That’s how IBA happened – and now banking! And it’s not just salsa dancing, I love driving 4x4s, playing music, doing some art here and there! Dancing is, of course, the closest to my heart.
You have the undisputed honour of being invited to the World Salsa Congress. What is this Congress? Have any other Pakistanis or Indians ever been invited to this event?
Well, I am the first Pakistani to date, but I’m afraid I would not know about India. The Congress was an annual gathering of salsa and other similar Latin ballroom performers, totalling 130 plus from across the world – from Cuba to Finland to Spain to Canada. The three days were divided into several sessions with performances and dancing lessons by world champions. The three days at a resort were like a complete dancing holiday!
You are a banker by day and a salsa dancer by night. It must be hard to refrain from dancing in the bank?
When I started out as a banker, I remember breaking into a move here and a move there while travelling from my seat to the boss’s office, or occasionally, while sitting in front of the laptop, I would turn an imaginary lady into a catapult. Fortunately, my colleagues didn’t notice!
Did you become a banker to keep your mom happy?
Since I was in grade nine, I have been interning at foreign banks. While my friends in school were playing off their summers, I was busy working in the credit card department or the remittance department or even counting dollars at the counter! Thanks to my uncle, Ahsan-ul-Haq – he was my mentor and guide – there I was, a ninth grade kid interning with IBA and McGill graduates. I always knew that banking had something in store for me.
As far as mom and dad were concerned, well, they always wanted me to wear a nice suit, carry a briefcase and sit in an air conditioned office!
ActOne is considered to be one of the oldest and most prestigious centres for the arts and wellness in Karachi. What exactly do you do at the centre?
As a country, we are quite late in entering the world of professional dance and we need a lot of coaching and development.
Many more dance schools are opening up now. But, unfortunately, some of the schools are not up to the mark – quality wise. The instructors lack proper tools for training. Moreover, there are specific facilities required by dancers, such as a three-layered wooden floor to protect dancer’s knees – these are non-existent in some schools.
ActOne has the best instructors from all over the world, with almost a decade of teaching experience behind them. Our instructors are so good that other smaller studios are willing to pay them more just to get them to teach. We do not discourage those who have the talent but lack the finances. We are here to spread a love for dancing. We are the largest and the most proper dance facility anywhere in the country.
What do you mean by a centre for wellness?
Wellness is the new buzzword all over the world. People are starting to become conscious about their health and hence, come to us. We offer yoga, power yoga, zumba, kickboxing, muay thai, Bollywood dance workout and more, to cater to all sorts of people.
If you were asked to choose one woman to do the salsa with, who might she be?
Tough question. Maybe Shakira, Roselyn Sanchez, Nicole Scherzinger (after watching her in the DWTS), Jennifer Lopez or Bárbara Mori. Please don’t ask me to choose one among them – it would be unfair to the rest.
What attracted you towards salsa as opposed to any of our own traditional dance forms?
I love all the local dances; it’s just that ballroom dancing is something so magical. It’s a conversation between a man and a woman and all else is forgotten. There is passion and anger, love and admiration, fun, cheekiness and flirtation – all mixed in a bowl.
For those like me, who know nothing about salsa, is this a difficult dance form?
It’s all about letting go, losing one’s self-consciousness and being free. There are NO two left feet! It’s all in the head. I have taught over 4000 people in Karachi and by the sixth class (if they have been regular), they begin to love it!
How did you learn this dance form, considering that there was no proper salsa dancer in Pakistan before you?
After my MBA, I needed a vacation before stepping into the corporate world. So I sold off my jeep and went to Turkey for a week. One day I accidentally stepped into a ballroom dancing school, and ended up staying there for exactly four-and-a half months!
ActOne seems to enjoy breaking records. You apparently hold the record for the largest number of flash mobs held in a continuous fashion. Tell us a little bit about this world record?
People say we are always chanting the “first this” or the “most that” slogan. Well, initially we set certain standards and then attempt to meet them. In 2010, we did the first ever documented flash mob in Karachi and within 19 months we created a world record for an oil marketing company by carrying out 100 flash mobs, within Karachi, in just 12 days! It makes us so proud. We have contacted Guinness and have sent them all the documentation related to it.
The break dancing tournament held at ActOne also had girls competing for the title of B-Girl. Were you surprised to see that young girls are also getting involved with such dance forms?
Surprised? No. Happy? Oh, yes!
Dance is not limited by boundaries, language or even gender. Unfortunately, before ActOne, dance in Pakistan was considered synonymous with obscenity and limited to a few. We are striving hard to make parents and the public understand that dance is pure, that it is the best form of expressing one’s self via the body and that it is healthy at the same time!
Dance is not bad; the people who abuse it are. ActOne will continue to change existing paradigms.
This interview was originally published in the July issue of Newsline.
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