Born and raised in Bangladesh, a country in southern Asia bordering India and Myanmar, Ilaf moved to the United States at 20 to attend college. After briefly attending a college in California, she would transfer to a university in New Jersey. It was here she met her future husband, Solman. Fast forward a deacde, and the two have purchased a home and are parents to two beautiful children, three year old Sahmir and 21 month old Sahrish. Both Mom and Dad work at the university where they met (awww!), while the kids attend a nearby dayschool. In many ways, they are the picture of the American dream: happy and healthy with great jobs, the house and the two kids. If they don’t have a picket fence, that’s all that’s missing.
But for Ilaf, Bangladesh is always at heart. Beginning in September, she will teaching kathak, a style of Indian classic dance at the Srishti Academy. Last month, she performed for the first time in fourteen years at the George Street Playhouse, in New Brunswick, NJ, at the urging of her guru.
“I performed with my Kathak Guru, and was super nervous. In our culture, gurus- dance, music, education- are put in a very high pedestal and being able to perform with them is an honor.”
Despite the nervousness, the performance went wonderfully. Then again, with Ilaf’s years of expperience, that shouldn’t be a surprise, especially not to her.
“Well, I started dancing when i was around 4, mostly Bangladeshi folk. Then from age 8 or so, I started the basic kathak. I went into pure classical kathak from age 12 with the guru with whom I perfomred my come back. Under his tutelage, I learned pure kathak for only 3 years.
“Then I continued with my folk but not the kathak. I danced regularly on stage and the national television until I came to the U.S. … then stopped.
i lost a part of me.
“Have you seen the bells we wear around our ankles? They are called “Ghungoor”. The more you wear the heavier they get. They ground your heel to the floor so that when you spin on your heel, you have balance. I left my ghungoor in Bangladesh. My dad brought it back for me last month and I got so emotional.”
Ilaf has decorated her house with accents from or reminiscent of her homeland and graciously shared some photos here. Check them out.