Bhangra dancing brings Arcola East community together

The Morning Edition is bringing you stories of the people and places that make Regina's Arcola East neighbourhood unique. Meet the multi-cultural Arcola East Bhangra Community Dancers.

Morning Edition's spotlight on unique people and places in Arcola East

Neelu Sachdev leads the Arcola East Bhangra Community Dancers that meets weekly at the Arcola East Community Centre. (Nichole Huck/CBC )

About 20 years ago, Neelu Sachdev's children were in elementary school in a suburban area of Regina, and she was searching out a way for her children to be exposed to East Indian culture. 

When she was a child growing up in the United States, she asked her mother to put her in traditional East Indian dance classes. And she wanted to be able to offer her children the same experience in Regina's Arcola East neighbourhood.

She approached her local community association and offered to teach a kids Bhangra dance class. She was told she needed 10 kids signed up to make a go of it: on the first day of classes, 25 kids showed up.  

"At that time there was no multiculturalism that you could expose your kids to, even the Heritage language schools were just starting," explained Sachdev. 

At the start, most of the kids in the class had at least some connection to India, but it eventually evolved to include kids all of different backgrounds.

"I think it's because the kids enjoyed it. It's easy to start something, but it's really hard to keep it going," said Sachdev. 

She's also the head of the Saskatchewan Immigrant Women's Centre. About eight years ago she was asked if she would also teach a women's class. It started off as just a recreational class, but morphed into a performance group that regularly performs at events such as Mosaic. 

Those performances attract a whole new crew of women to the group, including Chinese-born Rickie Hue. 

"The performance was so exciting and a lot of energy," said Hue. 

Others, like Inderjit Kamboz became interested in the group through their children. Kamboz danced as a young girl and in University, and was missing it in her life. When the women's group started, she was one of the first people to sign up and she now helps Sachdev lead the group. 

"Some are professionals, some are stay-at-home moms, some are attracted because they saw their kids doing it. Some are attracted because it's just fun, plus the applause you get from performing," laughed Sachdev. 

Kamboz said the majority of people in the group are not of East Indian ancestry and that sometimes surprises people in the ex-pat East Indian community when they see the group perform. 

"These girls dance like professionals and we keep getting better every year."


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