March 13, 2019 4:31 pm
Updated: March 13, 2019 7:39 pm

Long-time Calgary dance teacher nominated for immigrant award: ‘I’m very honoured’

WATCH: Staying in touch with your culture and traditions can be a challenge when you move to Canada from another country. Now, a woman who's helped generations of Calgarians connect with their roots is getting some well-deserved recognition. Gil Tucker has the story.

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There’s a lot more than meets the eye as two dancers rehearse for an upcoming show in Calgary.

“Dance is my outlet, my happiness,” dancer Jovita Patara said. “It just gives a certain freeness to my soul.”

Members of the Kala Bhavan of Calgary dance school are preparing for a show called “Yoddha: The Great Warrior,” in which they’ll be performing several styles of Indian dance.

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It’s the kind of production the school’s director Roma Thakore has been staging since she arrived in Calgary 35 years ago.

“As a new immigrant it was very important to me to bring in those traditions and the culture that India is famous for,” Thakore said.

Her talent and hard work are now getting some well-deserved recognition.

Thakore is one of the nominees for the 2019 Immigrants of Distinction Awards, presented by Immigrant Services Calgary.

“I’m very honoured,” Thakore said. “It validated what I’ve always believed in when it came to what Canada is all about. To me, Canada stands for hope and for freedom.”

“I’m very proud of my mom,” dancer Pooja Thakore said, “as a woman, as an immigrant and as someone that can show what kind of dreams can be possible, even in a completely different country and culture.”

The Immigrants of Distinction Awards will be presented at a ceremony in the Bella Concert Hall at Mount Royal University on Friday, March 15.

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Thakore’s dancers are happy that the woman who has inspired them for so many years has been nominated for an award.

“She is such a great example of how to carry on culture in a very honourable, humble and honest way,” Patara said.

“Dance has been a hobby,” Thakore said. “And my day job, I work actually with people with developmental disabilities, so it gives me (a sense of) what humanity’s all about.”

About 35 of her Kala Bhavan dancers will take to the stage at the Bella Concert Hall on May 25 to perform “Yoddha: The Great Warrior,” which tells the story of a matriarchal kingdom in India and the warrior women who defend it.

“So many of my students have never gone back to India to see what India is all about,” Thakore said. “But through this kind of dance and through these kinds of traditions, they have some connection to India and their roots.”

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