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.