Life is made up of many factors that influences the outcomes you make that indirectly or directly makes a difference to the people around you.
This youth month we did something differently and decided to showcase an incredible dancer who has changed the lives of the youth for over 20 years now.
She goes by the name of Shiksha Singh or more appropriately known as “MAM”…
The owner of the best dance school in Africa – KSDI (Kumari Shiksha’s Dance Institute), where she teaches different types of Indian dancers routines. She also an active member in her community and her day time job, is a secondary school English educator. She strives for nothing less and excellence and she is our MOST INFLUENTIAL YOUTH MONTH LEADER!
The Bokem Legacy is beyond honoured to share her story with you.
1. What is the definition of dance?
In my eye, Dance is an expression of life… a reason to live. People dance to express themselves when the world seems not to understand. It brings happiness and joy when its performed…hence (I believe) its something that cannot be taken away from any person by anyone.
Technically..Bharatha Natyam the dance i teach – is a highly cultural and spiritual dance form that originated in the South of India. It is a pure dance that expects the dancer to be pure in mind, body and soul as he/she depicts God himself which is extremely difficult for our modern world hence we are so proud of any student that can spend 10 years or more following this spiritual discipline.
2. What types of dance do you specialize in and which is your most favorite?
I am a Bharatha Natyam graduate and graduate my students in Bharatha Natyam as Kumari’s or Kumarans. I studied Kathak as well but am not a graduate but I do teach a bit of the grace of that form. I’m a specialist as well in temporary forms and offer that to my students. I have done Ballet, Traditional Zulu, All ballroom styles, and of course Bollywood which needs no one needs to learn.
3. Talk to me about KSDI
Kumari Shiksha’s Dance Institute (KSDI) opened its doors in January 1996 in my matric year to just 8 students via word of mouth. No advertising. We offer Bharatha Natyam, Modern, Bhangra and folk dance styles. KSDI’s pride is the fact that they still have their very 1st student since 1996 Shrimathie Venella Govender who is now a senior teacher at the institute.
4. How would you define yourself?
I would say too emotional.
But I am a highly self-motivated individual. I feel that I am placed on this planet strictly for the purpose to empower the youth in any way I possibly can. Be it through dance or teaching the medium of English. I love children and the little things in nature that we don’t take time to appreciate. I wish people could make their surrounding a better place not for the world but just for those around them.
I’m angered at the fact that little kids and innocent people die at the hands of family and criminals and strongly believe that, that is due to the lack/ belief of GOD!!!
5. How can dance be used to better one’s life?
As I said dance is an expression. Many people can speak their problems but dance helps them express that feeling or emotion. When people dance they tend to forget their problems. It keeps them motivated, confident and balances their activities in life…
An example: many students wish to or are forced to graduate in dance by their parents before matric…as soon as they enter grade 12 they blame tuitions and studies for not dancing as it’s just a hobby…however that’s when they put on weight, take less pride in themselves, their self-esteem drops and their blood flow is unbalanced.
I had a student that was pushed by her parents to graduate in dance in Grade 11 (they even fought with me). The year after her graduation she dropped dance altogether blaming studies. All she ever did was study and tuitions for the next 8months. She wrote her trials in 2016 but relapsed for the finals. Her mind could not take the studying anymore so relapsed. She could not remember anyone except some dance teachers. She had no will to live and tried on numerous occasions to commit suicide. In November I took her back under my wing teaching her dances for my annual show and slowly (very slowly) we started to progress. I even created a dance lesson twice a week just to motivate her, we helped her lose weight and bring her back to life. Now she feels whole again trough dance.
I recently had a successful workshop (in April) at Stanmore Regional Hall, after she wrote her supplementary exams, educating the community on how dance balances the lives of a child. I have 3 degrees and I danced even in my matric year. Now this student goes around educating others. She passed her supplementary with Bachelors and a distinction and will study at DUT next semester and her parents are so grateful and thankful to us.
6. Talk to me about your amazing family…
I cannot start with my family as it stands…
I have to start with my parents whom I am forever indebted to. My mother always thought me that no one can ever take your education away hence educated her three children in every aspect she could despite growing up in a less advantaged background.
We all studied speech and drama and I did dance (Bharatha Natyam & Kathak)
It was my mum’s mad idea in my matric year to open the dance school and seeing I balanced my matric her so well we advertised the year after.
It was my mum’s crazy idea to host our very first show in my 1st year of University and that too was a success.
My dad always supported me and is my number one fan. Although very protective they have been my pillar and always guided me and still do so now.
I am blessed to have a supportive husband Raveen Singh who was definitely God sent. He took KSDI to higher heights by registering it and we just watched our numbers grow.
Balancing life I planned my 2 births. My eldest Master Yaashay Singh is now 10 and Master Shivam Singh is now 5. They are amazing and understands my life. Thy both dance as well, Yaashay training at KSDI and Shivam a lot like his mum self-trained. They both play Mridangist trained by Shree Asogan Moodley one of my musicians.
7. What are the 5 main roles of an educator?
I can give you what we learn at studies but through experience:
1) We have to be maternal – kids come from various backgrounds – you have to make them feel safe and know that they can trust you.
2) You have to lead by example – then you will earn respect
3) Educate holistically (To the true sense) teach God!!!! (any god – right from wrong) lessons that they can use in life as well (poetry allows for this in school)
4) Always ensure the various students enjoy, listen and respond to your lesson.
5) Go the extra mile – you chose the profession to make a difference in a child’s life not just for a salary.
8. How do you motivate your students in class?
– In school, I write every child’s birthday on my school calendar and wish them.
– I make little good luck notes for every exam for my form class. In grade 12 I buy angels or godly ornaments.
-We take a personal interest in each others personal lives. If a parent is ill we put monies together and make baskets.
– I make a personal attempt to attend any funerals of parents of students at both school and dance school,followed by visits and/or phone calls.
-I talk to them about study methods and balancing life. Often use myself as an example. I paid my own studies through the monies I earned as a dancer.
– weak learners I have extra lessons after school even buy them food to concentrate. That’s how I got my 100% pass rate.
9. What is your advise to aspiring dancers out there?
Dance because of the feeling and satisfaction it provides not because it’s a competition.
Today’s dancers compete with each other…. I really don’t see the need to compete. The world is big enough for everyone to dance.
Dance is about an emotion not about the money or a commodity. Its dance instructors that make dance a commodity losing its spiritual essence.
10. Your words of wisdom to the youth of South Africa will be….
1) Nothing is possible in life without God. Follow a teaching of your God. Believe that he exists and have a fear of him that you will always choose right over wrong.
2) Be good to others if you wish the safe in return.
3) Surround yourself with ONLY positivity. There are always people ready to bring you own, choose and know what’s best for you.
4) Love …LOVE…Love
Moving to the rhythm with Shiksha mam
1. Your favourite colour is?
2. My most embarrassing moment was…
Tripping over a speaker at a graduation
3. My culture taught me….
To build a relationship with god,
It humbled me and thought me to love others without discriminating.
4. What is love?
For me love is not just a word…or a gesture with materialistic value
To me love is showing compassion for another human being.
Taking the time to listen..
Taking the time to respond
Love is time …in today’s world with everyone trying to live every moment …give someone you wish to express love to, Time.
5. A day swimming with jelly fish or a day in a box of scorpions?
LOL….definitely …a box of scorpions as I feel a can save the world or will die trying.
Be sure to follow KSDI across all social media platforms