Teaching a connection to her culture
Simran Sandhu, 19, was enticed into the world of Bollywood dancing by its catchy music, elaborate costumes and fancy choreography. She talks to Elesha Edmonds about how teaching dance has helped her get to know her Indian culture. DAILY GRIND
It was Simran Sandhu’s grandmother who first noticed how much she loved to dance.
‘‘My grandmother caught me dancing in front of the mirror,’’ she says.
‘‘She would tell my mum that she needed to put me in a class because I was always dancing.’’
It was a good thing she did as Sandhu now works as a Bollywood dance teacher at Aaja Nachle Dance School, which teaches in Mt Roskill and Glenfield.
The 19-year-old says she has always loved dressing up in her glittering Bollywood costumes and performing on stage.
‘‘Before I start performing, I get butterflies in my tummy,’’ she says.
‘‘When I’m putting on my make up and jewellery the whole time I am thinking about how I am going to present myself on the stage.
‘‘I go through a whole process of getting ready to perform.’’
The Mt Roskill resident has come a long way from her first performance in 2009.
‘‘It was really nerve racking and I actually made a mistake,’’ she says.
‘‘I was actually smiling the whole time so no one else figured out that I was on the wrong side of the stage.
‘‘That’s when I realised that it is so important that no matter what you do, you’ve got to make sure you enjoy what you’re doing.’’
It was this positive attitude that saw Sandhu go on to win many Diwali competitions, as well as scoring Dancer of the Year for her dance class in 2010.
Her hard work paid off as Sandhu caught the eye of Jignal Patel, the founder of Aaja Nachle Dance School, who asked her to join her in teaching at the school.
Sandhu teaches four dance classes a week for students ranging from the age of three to over 40.
It’s a big commitment for Sandhu, who is in her second year of study- ing commerce at the University of Auckland.
Alongside her studies, she also juggles another job and karate practise – she earned her black belt in 2013.
‘‘It’s really important with work and study that you have some time to do fitness as well,’’ she says.
The former Mt Roskill Grammar School student came to New Zealand from India when she was 4 years old.
Sandhu doesn’t remember much about India, but says Bollywood dancing has helped her get to know where she came from.
‘‘Dance for me is a way to connect with my roots,’’ she says.
Indian children these days are losing touch with their culture and many grow up not understanding their mother tongue, Sandhu says.
‘‘I guess it takes a little while to fit in.
‘‘So for me it was very important that I kept hold of where I came from and the culture I belong to.
‘‘I have grown to love my culture and most importantly I have found a way to express myself as an Indian-Kiwi.’’
Sandhu enjoys watching her students make an effort to engage with her culture and language.
‘‘When I come across the younger kids, some of them who do not know Hindi or are not part of the culture, they don’t know how to sing the songs,’’ she says.
‘‘They go home and Google the song and they find a translation of the lyrics and learn it, find out what it means and how to sing them.
‘‘I find it quite cool because they come into class and kind of know how to express themselves.’’
Bollywood teacher Simran Sandhu performing at Auckland’s Silo Park.