Vaisakhi may not be for a few more weeks, but the Shan-E-Punjab Dance, Performing Arts and Heritage School is kicking off the festivities early this Sunday with its 23rd annual Youth Cultural Showcase.
The two-hour celebration is taking over the University of Victoria’s Farquhar Auditorium on April 3, bringing nearly 200 students to the stage to perform both traditional and contemporary Indian dances – from bhangra to Bollywood.
“Culturally, it is the harvest festival of the Punjab region, the northern state of India,” said dance teacher Sonia Grewal. “It’s also the Punjabi new year, which falls on the same day called the Khalsa Sirjana Divas.
“Through bhangra, we try to engage students in their culture because it’s important to embrace the culture and understand it. I think it’s important to be aware of your roots, and I think a lot of parents here feel that too.”
Dancer Meghan Randhawa will be returning for her second year in the show. While her debut last year was a little nerve-racking, she said it was a thrill to perform at the auditorium.
“It was my first time on the UVic stage, and that stage is huge,” she said.” But once I got out there, I just found it was so much fun – we were all just looking at each other and smiling. It was a great experience.
“One of my strong passions is dance, so I just had a good time onstage.”
The showcase features dancers from three to 30, with performances ranging from dances to duets and everything in between. Grewal said the show teaches the students teamwork as they develop their dance skills.
“A lot of students that are new, they build these teams and then they learn with their team what they can accomplish together and they see it on the stage,” she said.
“Once they get on that stage, it’s surprising how well they do.”
“We start pretty much in September, maybe in the summer,” added Randhawa. “So much work goes into it – we have so many people who give their time to volunteer and help set up things or make ideas.”
In the spirit of Vaisakhi, Grewal said the celebration is open to anyone, and the school is hoping to draw all kinds of people from across the Island to see the students’ hard work performed live onstage.
“It’s not meant for just our community, it’s meant to show cultural awareness and some students that are doing some amazing things and bringing people together,” she said. “We want to create that family feeling for everyone that comes here.
“We want the community to come out and support these kids.”
The show starts at 3 p.m. and runs for two hours without an intermission. Tickets are $13 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for students, with complimentary baby tickets also available.
Tickets can be purchased online at tickets.uvic.ca, by phone at 250-721-8480 or in person at the UVic Ticket Centre box office, located at 3800 Finnerty Rd., Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information, visit shan-e-punjab.ca.