Note: 2017 Harp has done an amazing job while in her role as S.E.P.'s first Manager since she joined 2015. We wish Harp the best in her future goals with her very popular, busy and successful business, she has had a passion for all things "faces" as long as she can remember and has created Making Faces by Harp Sra - here is the link https://makingfacesbyharpsra.ca/
I have been a part of Shan-e-Punjab (S.E.P) for 13 years from 1994 to 2007. I began to dance because it was fun and something to do with some other girls my age. I continued to dance and began to fall in love with it. I started to meet people I shared the same passion with. It became something I would look forward to attending. Although we started out practicing in Sonia's garage for small events, it was something that was more fun than anything I had ever been a part of. It was a struggle to be able to express your passion and be able to present it when there were so many obstacles standing in your way. As a group we came together and were determined to succeed and reach our goals, which after approximately 5 years we have achieved, but we will still always have more to achieve - as learning never ends. One thing that really sticks out in my mind is winning the Adjudicator's Award and the first Punjabi Bhangra team to win the Authentic Ethnic Dance Award at the Greater Victoria Music Festival Awards in 1996-1998 (pls note: the festival now is called the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival and back then you actually won the award unlike now where everyone gets recognized)! I feel it was the beginning of something great. I don't think any of us really knew what was to come but we went out there and won them over!
A few years after being in dance Sonia and I were talking about dance and what it meant to us and how much we enjoyed it. We began to brainstorm on ideas to open ourselves to other students who were not in dance. We created an idea to put on a summer camp for the kids at St. Margaret’s School, the first which was held in the summer of 1997. It was another way for us to learn about other aspects of our culture including dance and then share this interest with the rest of the community. I believe that S.E.P. was a huge part of my life while growing up. It was a positive avenue for me and I believe it really kept me focused. I was able to focus on being creative, learning about my culture, meeting people and being apart of something positive. I in return wanted to offer that to other youth.
Once the summer camps came and went we really began to focus on how much we all really had a passion for this. Some of the thoughts we all shared was the feeling of accomplishment, success in meeting our goals, our perseverance, our passion, our ability to be unique, efforts to be creative and being a team, but mostly having fun learning about our rich culture and traditions in a safe, fun and educational manner! This was mostly demonstrated in the success of our performances and creativity for new ideas such as the summer camps. For me it was like a thrust! I loved it and wanted more. In 1996, with Sonia's inclusive leadership we became a school! This was the most exciting thing, to see something that you began doing become a huge accomplishment not only for me but my colleagues, students and for everyone involved. It was absolutely amazing!
Soon after that Sonia approached me with the idea of teaching. I was so excited. We decided to have age groups and I must say I was the first teacher for age’s four to six (see pic below)! I had never really done anything like this before but all I knew was that I was meant to do this. I began to teach and it was an incredible feeling that for me sometimes is difficult to share in words (haha you laugh). S.E.P. became so very popular that we have taught well over 500 students, adults, schools, organizations, dance academies, and the public since then. Students we recruited came from variousethnic, social, and economic backgrounds, some with many years of dance experience and some with none, all in all as a team we worked tirelessly as we all shared the goal for learning to dance. I am proud to say that two students I taught as part of an all girls team, at ages five and four respectively, are still with the school, Meera Kashyap and Krishna Kashyap, nineteen years later. I have passed the baton to Janessa Sundher, who has now taught this girls age group for the last 5 years with Amy Sundher and/or Nicole Atwal (nee Randhawa).
S.E.P. focused on a mentorship project for a couple of years which I was involved with; after that time period, Sonia continued dance classes and it felt like we were where we left off, but even better, because we’ve had a few years to realize the legacy we have created through lots of learning. It is actually really amazing to see how after many years the talent S.E.P. has built or brought out hidden talents; learning to only do better the next time. I know this school is something special, a family away from family. I am so thankful that I am a part of S.E.P.!
After 13 years with S.E.P., I am happy to be returning as S.E.P.'s Manager, I am truly looking forward to meeting everyone and for being a part of S.E.P.'s team again - looking forward to the learning that lies ahead of me and I can not do this without the support of Sonia, the teachers, parents, and students. I met the teachers during the summer at the teacher one on one's and everyone seems amazing . I have spent the summer getting up to speed and I know I have a huge learning curve!