Shan-e-Punjab Dance school mixes cultures

Dance students are busy preparing for the annual Youth Showcase, in honour of the Sikh harvest festival.

(Front) Trista Dahmi

Sonia Grewal arrived in Canada as a baby in 1970, so her connection to her Indian roots came partly through rented Bollywood films.

“My mother, to keep me busy and out of trouble, she’d turn on the (VCR),” Grewal said. She fell in love with the genre, and danced along.

But as a Canadian girl, she also followed Western pop culture.

In elementary school, she started a dance group.

“It was just the four of us and we’d go around at recess doing these little dances to Shaun Cassidy’s music,” she said. “As much as I loved Bollywood, I think I just picked up beats. … At that age, any music that comes your way, you’re able to move with it.”

The foursome called their troupe Sha Na Na.

“How was I to know later on I’d have a (dance) school called Shan-e-Punjab?” she asked.

While her school’s name sounds like the nonsense syllables from her childhood dance group, the meaning is quite different.

Shan-e-Punjab means “to bring honour to the Punjabi culture,” she said.

These days, dance students are busy preparing for the annual Youth Showcase, in honour of the Sikh harvest festival. The school, started in 1996, teaches traditional dances from the Sikh region of Northern India, but also what’s popular today.

“If the popular thing right now is Bhangra, then that’s what we’ll mainly focus on,” Grewal said. That includes mixes with Top 40.

“One year we had Michael Jackson,” she said. “That piece was contributed to us by a girl who has been with us for over 16 years … and she’s a third- or fourth-generation Indo-Canadian. … You’ve got perspectives from everyone.”

Today, Grewal has lost her family connection to her homeland.

“There’s no elder aunts, anybody there.”

But keeping her culture alive through her dance school keeps her going.

“Everybody needs that feeling of engagement. Who am I, where do I come from?” she said. “For me, I think I’m a stronger person because of it. … For me, it’s like my oxygen.”

Mark your calendar:

The Shan-e-Punjab Dance, Performing Arts and Heritage School puts on its annual Youth Cultural Showcase on April 29. It takes place at 3 p.m. at the University of Victoria Farquhar Auditorium. Tickets $12 for adults and $7 for students. For more information, email



Just Posted

Man arrested, charged in connection with stabbing at Langford Lanes

Twenty-year-old Austin Bonner has been charged with aggravated assault

Community rallies behind Langford man battling lymphoma

More than $20,000 has been raised to help Mike Gordon

B.C. Transit to reduce service for spring

Route changes come in to effect April 9

Group calls for limited access to backcountry roads near Jordan River

Victoria Fish and Game Protective Association says closures would limit misuse of woods

Career fair inspires Royal Bay students

Inaugural event brought together 72 workers from various fields

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

Women’s Expo seeks to empower women this weekend

Victoria Women’s Expo set for Saturday and Sunday at Pearkes Recreation Centre

City of Victoria seeks artists to contribute to upcoming public exhibitions

Submissions for Commercial Alley gallery, bus shelter project due by April 9

Alberta budget plans for Trans Mountain expansion

Finance Minister Joe Ceci says expected revenues will be factored into budget forecasts

Plane filled with smoke lands at Nanaimo Airport

WestJet flight came in from Vancouver

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 20

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Rescued Comox canoer credits those ‘at the right place, at the right time’

James Milne was rescued in a hypothermic state Sunday near Goose Spit

Proposed gun bill attacked by gun owners and shooting victims

The federal government tabled the bill today in order to tighten the sale and tracking of firearms

Most Read