Why are you still dancing? How old are you?! What are people going to say?!?
If I can count the number of times I’ve heard this, I’d probably wouldn't have time to write this article.
My parents thought dancing was only a phase, but to me it has always been a form self expression. Dancing was a creative outlet that allowed me to grow as a person. It has brought me to one of my proudest moments, which was the day that I started Let’s Jalsa. You may wonder who or what Jalsa is? Jalsa is an expression to me. It means to dance, to celebrate and to just have a good time.
My dance career started similar to every other kid; right in my living room glued to my tv, jumping up and down to whatever I saw. My parents also found it amusing to dress me up and sit and watch in admiration as I pretended to do classical routines. They put me in bharatanatyam classes at the age of three where I learned the key fundamentals in dance: discipline, grace and expression. My love for dance grew over the years and led me to start choreographing for performances from the age of 11. This is when I really developed a keen interest in teaching others to dance.
I’ve had many different platforms to perform. What started as a hobby led to performing at various events and competing on many stages. Dancing has provided me with many opportunities such as performing with Indian celebrities across North America with a phenomenal team called Agni Music Troupe. This was my turning point where I had the chance to explore my passion for cinema and direction. Agni has taught me so much over the years. They not only challenged me to be creative & unique but also molded me into a strong leader at a young age and had given me the responsibility to lead a large group of artists. I believe this is what ultimately set me in the path I'm in now. Dancing has also provided me with unforgettable experiences such as being one of four choreographers for a production called Ideal Dreams; a tribute to AR Rahman in his presence and finally having the privilege of bringing my passion of dance into my work place (SAAAC Autism Centre) by choreographing and performing with the Zillas Dance Crew for several years to portray the stories of families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
I always felt that I was making a positive impact on the community and myself through dance. However, I have also had to face an ongoing battle with my parents, as they insisted that dancers had a shelf life. This brought me to a cross road where I thought, what is my next step as a dancer? Is this it? Dealing with this doubt, I knew I had to take a leap and do something different and something that aligned my passion for dance, teaching, while also making a difference. This is how I decided to venture into wedding/event choreography and thus, Let’s Jalsa was born.
Without a doubt, starting a venture like this came with many obstacles. My main struggle with Let’s Jalsa was to push myself to actually get started. I kept doubting my abilities and I was afraid of the uncertainty and vulnerability of putting myself out there. Possessing a fulltime job as a Manager of Volunteer Resources at SAAAC Autism Centre, I knew that fulfilling the obligations of operating my own company would present various obstacles.
In addition to work, I am very active and frequently participate in several extra curricular activities like Flag football, WOTSL and other dance groups. These activities taught me that I had to learn how to balance my time. Upholding my responsibilities, spending time with my family, maintaining friendships & relationship and finally having time for myself was also something I needed to factor into this balance. So needless to say, it was a big leap I was about to take by starting this venture. However, I am beyond fortunate to have my family and friends as my strongest supporters. They give me confidence and the self- assurance I need to pursue my passion without doubting myself. The constant push to be innovative and creative while staying grounded has enabled me to come as far as I have and pushes me to go even further.
Once I started Let’s Jalsa, I realized that wedding choreography isn’t a common service couples think about when it comes to planning a wedding. I knew that to overcome this challenge I had to emphasize branding myself and creating a visible and valuable service. Coming from a Health Sciences background, I was not familiar with the marketing components of a business. Through some tough growing pains, I built a brand by continuously pushing out content and doing collaborations with the many talented people in our community on social media, so that people could come to know my style and exactly who I was.
Wedding choreography is also a unique business because as the vendor, I don’t have control of the final performance. Due to this, my job becomes a bit more than just teaching people how to dance. I feel there is a misconception that choreography is just putting moves together . I view it as crafting a routine that brings out a personalized story, provoking emotions and leaving the audience feeling captivated. The process begins with a vision that would best portray my clients' love story through creative cinematic choreography.
Through this process, I’m often in a position where I have to empower and instill confidence into my clients, many of whom are performing for their first time in front of their loved ones. A part of my job is to coach clients in maintaining composure, teaching them how to improvise and how to command a stage presence through expressions, in order to show a deeper and more meaningful connection in their performance. To me, there is no greater joy than seeing people come out of their shells to find a new love in performing or expressing themselves through dance. I have even had clients who were initially shy and reserved, who would reconnect with me at a later time and inform me that they have now transitioned to being the life of every dance floor they are on!
Taking this leap of faith into starting Let’s Jalsa has been one of the hardest, but also best decisions I have ever made. I have felt myself grow, not only as a dancer, but as a person. I have also come to appreciate and admire the work of so many great entrepreneurs in our community. My biggest takeaway from this journey so far is that in order to have any success in a business, you need to know your worth so that others can value your time and your craft. It is also important to love what you're doing and do it wholeheartedly.
I could not be happier to say I am long past my insecurities and doubts as I work now to prolong my journey as a dancer. As for my parents; I now see the same admiration on their faces as I did when I was that kid dancing in front of the TV, every time they ask to see the latest Let’s Jalsa videos.
Speaking of which, check out my latest video on Youtube: