Valentine’s Day Bhangra-style

Sahota’s debut at Dances for a Small Stage. | Photo by Derek Stevens

Sahota’s debut at Dances for a Small Stage. | Photo by Derek Stevens

Hardeep Singh Sahota, a seasoned bhangra dancer, is making his debut at Dances for a Small Stage 33: the valentine’s edition, a performance series that showcases new and established dance professionals.

The show will be hosted at the ANZA Club in Mount Pleasant from Feb. 11–14, where Sahota hopes to share his love for bhangra dancing with the public.

A passion born in India

Sahota’s passion for this dance genre stems from his early days of growing up in India, an experience he has brought with him to Vancouver. During his childhood, he was inspired by bhangra after watching other children hone the skill.

When he was seven years old, Sahota used to watch a group of people dancing bhangra in his school. Once school was over, he would go home and emulate them.

“One day I asked them if I could try to dance with them. They asked me to join a junior bhangra team when I was eight, and that started my journey in bhangra. Now I’ve been practicing for 24 years,” he says.

Sahota’s enthusiasm for dance has taken on a life of its own in Canada, where he shares his love for it with people from all walks of life. To him, bhangra provides his sense of being.

“Dancing is my world – passion, motivation, the creation of arts. I used to be a dancer and became a choreographer, and have done so many projects with people from various backgrounds,” says Sahota. “Now I am running the Royal Academy of Bhangra [in Surrey] as the artistic dance director.”

Persevering through dance

Hardeep Singh Sahota, dance director of the Royal Academy of Bhangra. | Photo by Derek Stevens

Hardeep Singh Sahota, dance director of the Royal Academy of Bhangra. | Photo by Derek Stevens

Sahota says that to some, dance is a hobby, but for him, it was a coping mechanism during some tough times while growing up in India. These memories serve as a constant reminder to Sahota of how amazing it feels to live in Vancouver, and also to share his culture with locals here.

“I do think about India – I have spent 17 years of my life there, so many of my memories are connected to it. We were two brothers and two sisters, and I was seven years old when my dad passed away,” says Sahota.

Sahota’s mother went to work to support the family, though he says it was tough to provide for them at that time in India. His older sister came to Canada in 1997, paving the way for the rest of the family to come in 2003.

“There is nothing that affects my life here – it’s a motivation I get every day to work toward dance arts,” he says.

Bhangra breakdown

So what exactly does bhangra encompass? According to Sahota, this vibrant dance style is a combination of influences from a number of different cultures, including various parts of India and Pakistan.

After the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, explains Sahota, half of the dances went to Pakistan. The dances are sorted under bhangra segments called jhommer, ludi, sammi, dhammal and chaals.

“Bhangra is a feeling of happiness and the celebration of harvest,” says Sahota.

The valentine’s edition

Julie-Anne Saroyan, the artistic producer of the show, says the audience will be able to experience love in many forms through an awe-inspiring and thought-provoking performance.

Saroyan says spectators can expect a varied collection of dance works from contemporary to flamenco to bhangra.

“As the curator for the show, I have asked the artists to think about love – all kinds of love. From mythological to romantic, from family love to companionship, love lost and found and everything in between,” says Saroyan.

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