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

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

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.

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