Dancing Queen

mailife - - Contents - By MELA KATONIVUALIKU Pho­tos IVA ROKOVESA

Shobna Chanel was still a child barely in school when she started learn­ing how to dance. To­day that pas­sion she had at such young age has taken her a long way. Chanel has never looked back and now suc­cess­fully man­ages her own dance out­fit – the Shobna Chanel Dance Group. “When I started learn­ing dance I didn’t ques­tion it much at the time. It was my mother who joined me to the Indian Cul­tural Cen­tre in the Indian High Com­mis­sion when it ini­tially opened in Fiji. My in­ter­est and love for dance de­vel­oped as time went by.” Chanel said she had a hum­ble up­bring­ing, grow­ing up in Toorak where she was raised by her mum, Josephine Satya Wati Singh. She was shel­tered and pro­tected, even though her sin­gle mum had to deal with many chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tions, es­pe­cially financial. De­spite hav­ing a sin­gle par­ent, she had a nor­mal up­bring­ing that was shel­tered and pro­tected. Chanel was the mid­dle child and has an older brother in Fiji and a younger one now liv­ing in Syd­ney. “Mum was a kin­der­garten teacher so in­tro­duced us to lots of things early in life, for ex­am­ple the li­brary, read­ing, swim­ming, art­work, paint­ing, hol­i­day pro­grams and dancing just to name a few.” “Though every­thing was not a bed of roses, she never let us feel un­der­priv­i­leged and pro­vided for all our needs. For that I am for­ever grate­ful to her. “My mum was a fighter with very strong prin­ci­ples in life and she never de­vi­ated from in­still­ing in us good ethics, in­tegrity, hard work and the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion – those are what shaped my life,” she said. Chanel is mar­ried to Justin Chanel and they have two sons, Shel­don and Arnold. She works full time as a Tech­ni­cal Ad­vi­sor with the Im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand (INZ) branch in Suva. INZ is the im­mi­gra­tion branch of the New Zealand’s Ministry of Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment and is re­spon­si­ble for bring­ing the best peo­ple to NZ to aug­ment NZ’s so­cial and eco­nomic out­comes. She has held the post since 2009 and her job is to guide, train and develop the de­ci­sion-mak­ing skills of Im­mi­gra­tion Officers in line with the Im­mi­gra­tion Act, Im­mi­gra­tion In­struc­tions, Ser­vice Prom­ise and Val­ues to achieve high qual­ity cus­tomer out­comes. Chanel at­tended An­nesly In­fant School, Suva Methodist Pri­mary School and Dud­ley High School and has a Mas­ter in Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion (MBA) from the Univer­sity of the South Pa­cific. Al­though she has a de­mand­ing job de­mand­ing a lot from her, Chanel has never lost her pas­sion for dance, par­tic­u­larly clas­si­cal Indian dance and mu­sic. “I am also fond of iTaukei cul­ture, mu­sic and dance,” she said. “The unique fu­sion of iTaukei and Indian dance forms has be­come our sig­na­ture over the years.” “Ini­tially I was ap­proached by the Govern­ment to pre­pare a small team for the World Expo and Arts Fes­ti­val in Aus­tralia back in 1988.

“Later on, when the Indian High Com­mis­sion closed due to po­lit­i­cal up­heavals, I was asked by par­ents of many young girls to teach so that their daugh­ters could con­tinue learn­ing dance.” Chanel said it was too dif­fi­cult for her to refuse to im­part to chil­dren the art for which she had har­bored so much pas­sion. “I’ve al­ways made sure that any­one who wants to learn dance is wel­come in my class and is not re­stricted by age, race, reli­gion, dis­abil­ity or any other so­cial or eco­nomic fac­tors.” Her dance group was es­tab­lished around the end of 1987, start­ing out as a small, im­promptu troupe. Re­flect­ing on how far the dance group has come, Chanel said it has been a con­tin­u­ous and amaz­ing jour­ney fraught with chal­lenges and hard work that had forged many friend­ships. “There have been many events at which we per­formed, but two main events which be­gan the jour­ney were the Pa­cific Arts Fes­ti­val and World Expo in 1988. We were a four-mem­ber dance group as part of Fiji’s del­e­ga­tion to both. “It was a very proud mo­ment be­cause Fiji showed our cul­tural di­ver­sity, which left the crowd awed. I have al­ways felt that Fiji’s strength lies in our cul­tural di­ver­sity and we should con­tinue to pro­mote this and use it as a means to build unity and be­come a stronger na­tion.” “Our goal was al­ways to develop pas­sion among the peo­ple of Fiji and to bring them to­gether through dance. “We have al­ways en­cour­aged pos­i­tive change in Fiji and around the re­gion, es­pe­cially when we in­tro­duced the unique fu­sion of iTaukei and Indian dance forms and per­formed at many events pro­mot­ing both amaz­ing cul­tures.” Chanel said at a time when Fiji was still try­ing to heal from the af­ter­ef­fects of po­lit­i­cal up­heavals, the fu­sion dance form was an im­por­tant el­e­ment in break­ing down bar­ri­ers among Fiji peo­ple. “It was what I call a drop in the ocean, but with pow­er­ful, pos­i­tive ef­fects.” She said Fiji is a coun­try brim­ming with tal­ented artists and she had seen many who could eas­ily per­form at the high­est in­ter­na­tional lev­els, and many who al­ready have. “Sup­port for art and cul­ture is grow­ing and gain­ing recog­ni­tion, per­haps not with the mo­men­tum that many artists would have liked. But the fact that the Govern­ment and many seg­ments of the pri­vate sec­tor are pay­ing at­ten­tion and recog­nis­ing its im­por­tance is good enough rea­son to say that art and cul­ture is be­ing given sig­nif­i­cance and room to grow.” Chanel urges for­mer, cur­rent and fu­ture artists in Fiji and all stake­hold­ers to use their con­sid­er­able talents to con­trib­ute to the na­tion’s devel­op­ment and pro­mote to­geth­er­ness, unity and peace.

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