The emergence of bhangra and giddha as a ‘Canadian’ dance form is linked to the growth of the South Asian community in the Lower Mainland. Its rise, however, can be attributed in particular to a few key individuals who have laid the foundation for future generations.
In November 1993, Sonia Grewal along with her sister Amy and Harp Sra established a bhangra troupe that would eventually become the Shan-e-Punjab, Dance, Performing Arts & Heritage School, based in Victoria BC.
The school established its presence with a performance at the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.
Fast forward two decades and the school is as vibrant as ever. In April, Shan-e-Punjab celebrated their 20th show at their annual youth cultural showcase which was held at UVIC in April 2013.
Sonia Grewal is still the driving force behind the school.
Her students know her as the one who is always scheduling extra practices, choreography, sending reminder emails and phone calls, hours preparing props, selecting music, coordinating costumes and of course listening to feedback.
Grewal, who was born in Ludhiana, Punjab, has also recently started holding Punjabi classes for the students.
The school primarily teaches the traditional male folk dance of Punjab, Bhangra, as well as the traditional female folk dance from Punjab, Giddha.
Other dances include Bollywood, Orissi, Dhandia (stick), Sammi, to name a few.
Over the years, the school has performed in numerous competitions and events, not to mention prestigious locations such as the BC Legislature.
The school’s finest moments however appear to still lay ahead.
Shan-e-Punjab was recently accepted to perform in Disneyland on December 29 and 30, 2013.
It will be the first time Bhangra will ever be performed at the iconic American theme park.