Just minutes before the Diamond Jubilee performance, the dressing room was overflowing with anticipation, laughter, chants, and clapping. Nearly 40 performers darted around the cluttered room, taking care of last-minute makeup and costume touch-ups.
“All adrenaline is high right now,” said dancer Kiran Meghani as she suited up in her dazzling yellow and red South Asian costume.
Even as the pre-show tensions crescendoed, the team remained unified. Standing in a circle, holding each other's hands, the performers tried to calm their nerves. They thought back to dancers’ trips between Dallas and Little Rock and the 50 hours of practice they poured into their performance.
“Now, it's about letting go,” Kiran said. “The few moments before we go on stage, it's about our heart and our Imam and it’s about expressing our love the best we can for him. Forget about the technicalities, focus on the love for Mawlana Hazar Imam.”
The opportunity to dance on Imamat Day came as a surprise to Dr. Najiba Keshwani. She had moved to Dallas from New York for a medical residency program during the same brief window that recruitment was open.
In the crucial moments before performing, Najiba added “There is no ‘plan A,’ ‘B,’ or ‘C’, there is only ‘Plan K.’ And that is ‘Plan Karim,’” referencing the Imam of the Time. Najiba had the honor of performing in front of the Mawlana Hazar Imam during his Golden Jubilee in 2007.
For his Diamond Jubilee, her fellow dancers looked to her as a source of inspiration. During 11th-hour rehearsals the night before the performance, she stood perched atop makeup tables providing direction and reassurance as nervous performers scurried about. “You’re reassured,” she said, remembering her last performance in front of Hazar Imam, “that connection with the higher power exists, and you just have to reach out for it.”
Seconds before the lights came up in an arena filled with thousands, a calm energy settled in backstage. The dancers entered in several lines and stood along the edges of the stage. One after another, they performed dances representing diverse cultures of the Jamat including the geogrpahies of Syria, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Persia, and South Asia. After the last individual group had performed, all of the dancers came together with orbs lit in an array of colors, representing the light of their beloved Hazar Imam.
“By the end, we become that one group, that one person, that one body, representing Islam,” dancer Zohra Moosa recalled. The dance was met with thunderous applause and a standing ovation. For the dancers and supporting members, those 20 minutes on stage signified something akin to a personal, spiritual undertaking.
Back in the dressing room, many dancers burst into happy tears and embraced one another in congratulations. They broke into a "Diamond Jubilee!" cheer one final, joyous time. Added Kiran, “If I have fellow Ismaiili brothers and sisters happy, I know I have done some service for Hazar Imam.”
“Plan K” had worked after all.
Photographers Faisal Ladak and Farzana Gajani, and videographer Farhan Habib also contributed to this report.