Did you know? In 1993, our first year, the current name Shan~e~Punjab (SEP) was written as ‘Shannay Punjab’ and since 1993 we have taught over 1000 students, boys and girls, from ages three and up, performing approximately 5-15 performances a year. Our students have included first, second, third and fourth generations of various cultural backgrounds. The school’s name was co-developed to its current spelling with Mrs. Balbir Kaur Thiara, who is the mother of one of our first students, Mrs. Sunny Randhawa. It was Mrs. Randhawa who was one of SEP co-founders as well as Ms. Veena Sundher who initiated our website.
So what other reasons initiated us to start? There were many youth in their teens, including Sonia’s sister, Mrs. Amy Khangura (nee Grewal), whom had no avenue to connect to her culture, where the atmosphere was friendly, inviting, and respectful of all social backgrounds, ethnic cultures, and all ages. Of course, everyone loves dancing, so dance became the solution, with the vision for it to be fun, safe and educational – hence the need was met to teach culture through dance! Along with society’s needs, meeting the needs of our students is of utmost importance and as those needs change, so do our goals. Therefore, over the years, we have also incorporated a variety of dance forms other than those from Indian and Punjabi decent, which include cheerleading (particularly lifts), jazz, ballet, funk, hip hop, line dancing and river dance.
Information about classes? Currently SEP teaches classes at Dance Victoria Studios from approximately 1:30pm - 8:00pm, primarily on Sundays and sometimes on Fridays and Mondays. We have 2-14 students in each of our classes, and do have an additional adults class starting at the beginner level, but we must have 6-8 adults registered in order to start. We have 15 classes currently, and some of these classes will perform up to 3 dances.
Therefore, our annual cultural showcase celebrating Visakhi, is approximately 2-3 hours.
So what do we teach? We currently teach dance from all regions of India, mostly focused on dances from Punjab which include, Bhangra, the male traditional folk dance and its various styles; Giddha, is the female traditional folk and its styles (various themes) include Jago, Teeyan, Teej, Tirinjina, Malwa-ee or Babeh-ah da Giddha and Lohri; Sammi, a female folk dance voicing the heart of Punjabi women; and Bollywood. Other dances we have taught include Gypsy Dance (mountains of India); Orissi; Garba; Dhandiyan; Bollywood; Hip Hop; Peacock; Duets; Bharatnatyam hand gestures to a poem called O’Canada written and composed by Dr. Sidney-Price Sparling and Hindi film musicals. Possibly in the future we may include Bollywood Salsa as this is becoming ever so popular in India. Along with a true talent for dance we have also added singing (national anthems, Boliyan, folk songs, spiritual songs, and Suhaag Geet), instrument lessons (Dhol, Dholkee and Tabla), skits, drama, workshops, arts/crafts, mentorship programs, cultural showcases, and summer day camps.
More Ideas? Since then, Ms. Harp Sra was the one to come up with the idea of a summer day camp, and hence have held these annually. Mrs. Jaswinder Sahota (nee Bamra) was instrumental in leading our first Self-Development Workshops on issues such as ‘fitting in’, ‘communication’, and ‘bullying’. Many years later with Mrs. Amy Khangura (nee Grewal) and Ms. Karen Basi, the self-development workshops were continued on topics such as, ‘respect’, ‘problem-solving’, ‘anti-racism’, and ‘communication’, along with Ms. Ruby Rana. Ms. Rana was a key leader in our Mentorship Program, where through the application process for the YM-YWCA Woman of Distinction Awards relationships were built with Indo-Canadian Woman, who have made a significant contribution to society, in the areas of health, education, sports, science, business, public relations and community.
Who..What...Where..commitment to dance for over 14 years? Our pride is our students, and many of them have been committed and dedicated to SEP ranging from 5 to 16 years. In 2012 at our youth cultural showcase we honoured many students for their commitment and dedication. Many students, with training over the years have become teachers and/or moved to the senior’s advanced dance team. Therefore, we are now in our third/fourth generation of our senior’s advanced team, and it was our second generation that came up with our current motto. We have in the past and currently are honored to provide Reference and Support Letters for volunteering to students for high school graduation. Many students require a minimum number of community hours, and students have volunteered their time not only as part of dance teams, but as teachers, substitute teachers, event organization, leadership activities, and/or music preparation.
Yes Victoria is the capital of British Columbia…not Ottawa? We are very honoured to be a part of Victoria the Capital City of British Columbia, and representing Vancouver Island. As our senior advanced team took centre stage with some of the best teams internationally at the 13th annual Bhangra Nation (Bhangra Nation is the first organization to hold the largest Bhangra Competitions in Canada and possibly North America). For the competition in 2009, the Mayor of Victoria, Dean Fortin, recognized the team as “Ambassadors” being the first to represent Victoria and Vancouver Island in this type of dance form.
The community businesses, non-profit organizations, community members and families have provided their support over the years and we are truly grateful. In particular, Mr. Jagir Dhanowa, not only our dear uncle and grandfather to four little ones under the age of five, but owner of Island Video, a business that has been established for over 30 years in Victoria, and has been one of our sponsor’s for the majority of our Pride of Shan~e~Punjab Cultural Showcases. It was Mr. Dhanowa that linked us to our current mascot - the Train! This was initiated in the fall of 1997, during a video production of all our performances at an evening dinner and dance, of over 500 attendees, celebrating the 100th year of the first Sikh person to arrive in Canada, organized by the India and Canada Association of Victoria. On a side note there is a train in India, called the Shan-e-Punjab Express, which has been in operation since the 1960’s, traveling to all regions of India.