West­port gets taste of In­dia


‘‘We in­tro­duced West­port to Di­wali’’

Mov­ing schools is a night­mare many teenagers dread.

But when Jayshri Rat­nam was faced with a move from sub­ur­ban Auck­land to the South Is­land’s West Coast, she de­cided to turn what could have been a ma­jor downer into a whirl­wind of colour and life.

Jayshri has brought Bol­ly­wood dance to West­port, form­ing a dance group that has scooped na­tional awards.

The 15-year-old grew up in Auck­land’s Mt Roskill, where she was able to prac­tice Bol­ly­wood danc­ing ev­ery day with her friends, fam­ily and class­mates.

‘‘When I was first told I was re­ally up­set. I didn’t want to leave my busy life. There was no [In­dian] arts and cul­ture club in West­port.’’

She couldn’t com­pre­hend the prospect of go­ing from daily dance prac­tice to noth­ing.

She wrote about her feel­ings in a school es­say and prin­ci­pal An­drew Basher in­vited her to per­form at school assem­bly.

‘‘Be­fore I went to dance on stage my mum asked me did I want to do it. I didn’t know if they would un­der­stand or ap­pre­ci­ate it but I built up the courage and ev­ery­one was quite wel­com­ing and re­ally en­joyed it. I re­ally didn’t ex­pect that.’’

Her per­for­mance in­spired class­mates who had never seen Bol­ly­wood danc­ing be­fore.

When her fa­ther in­vited any­one in­ter­ested in her per­for­mance to meet after school, the Buller High School Bol­ly­wood group was born.

Ini­tially with just seven stu­dents, they made their de­but at a fundrais­ing event for West­port North Pri­mary but be­fore the year was out they had grown to 12 and were danc­ing at var­i­ous fundrais­ing and com­mu­nity events, in­clud­ing the West­port White­bait and Wai­tangi fes­ti­vals.

‘‘We started off do­ing lit­tle sim­ple dances and it got big­ger and big­ger. We in­tro­duced West­port to Di­wali, the In­dian fes­ti­val of lights.’’

A first in West­port his­tory, the group fundraised to host a night of In­dian dance, food and fash­ion.

The group’s sec­ond Di­wali fes­ti­val was ex­panded to in­clude an adult Bol­ly­wood group Jayshri coached ev­ery Satur­day morn­ing. Buller mayor Garry Howard gave a speech about how the Bol­ly­wood group had helped West­port

Tick­ets sales from the fes­ti­val funded two trips to per­form at the Christchurch-Fiji As­so­ci­a­tion’s Di­wali shows where the group won best per­for­mance of the night.

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