#TBSX

This year, out of all other years of me taking part at The Bhangra Showdown (TBS), has definitely been the most emotional one. I will be answering your question as to why, by taking you through three stages of my showdown experience this year. Each stage was written at that exact moment, and truthfully reflects what was going through my mind at the time.

10 days before The Bhangra Showdown

‘How does it feel to be the red girl?’, ‘You are the main girl this year’, ‘Oh my God, you are the red Jodi this year!’, ‘From green to blue to red – wow you have worked up the ranks.’

These are a few of the remarks I am currently facing, with TBS right around the corner, and my team vigorously practicing for it.

I am nervous. Very nervous. I’m scared I’m going to let the team down. I’m worried that I am not good enough. I’ve never been so scared to perform before. It upsets me even more that none of my family and friends will be there to support me – they all have their own valid reasons.

I cherished the fact that I was the green Jodi during my first year of taking part at TBS. I was excited to have been the blue Jodi last year. This year I am terrified. I am a Tamil girl – will I be able to bring out that inner ‘Punjabi-ness’ as much as is expected from me? I don’t want to let my captain down, who has also been my Jodi for the past two years and is again my Jodi this year.

Everyone has been motivating me and saying I will be fine, but honestly speaking, I don’t think many people understand this new anxiety that has creeped into me. I’ve never experienced something like this before. It is frightening me.

Yesterday my friend came over and I spoke to her about this. And she reminded me of something which I actually forgot. She told me, ‘Praveena you love performing; without you even realising you make sure everyone’s eyes are on you. You being the so-called main girl gives you an opportunity show-off what you are capable of as a dancer and performer. Red is just a colour. You are Praveena and that’s all that matters.’

These words were very refreshing. It made me realise why I decided to take part at TBS every year. I love that stage. That crowd, that atmosphere, that buzzing feeling of performing on stage. It is a drug. Somewhere down the line this year, I forgot about that. I forgot that I’m doing Showdown again because I simply love it.

The fact that I forgot those roots has been reflected during my practice sessions as well. I am tired and not feeling it. Nevertheless, yesterday my friend’s words hit me so strong – it made me realise that actually, I am going to forget about the fact that I am the ‘Red Jodi’. I am Praveena. I love dancing too much so it’s about time I started believing in that love and passion, because it will be so worth it.

4 Days Before The Bhangra Showdown

Circumstances have changed massively. My parents are now coming to support me and I find this the biggest motivation which has pushed me and is making me want to do better, and give my best.

I never valued enough the importance of my parents when it came to me dancing. Honestly speaking, they are not a massive fan of me dancing so much because they are scared that I am prioritising dance over studies. This is not the case, but I understand where they are coming from. Anyway, last year knowing that my parents were there for me made all that much more of a difference to my energy and passion. I wanted to show them what I am capable of. There is no one else in this world that I want to prove myself to than my parents, especially when it comes to dance.

Right now I am so pumped for TBS. I have two more rehearsals left, and I know what bits I need to work on. I need to push myself and make sure that I am not making those same mistakes again today and tomorrow during rehearsals. Only then will I feel comfortable with the fact that I can do it on the day!

The day after The Bhangra Showdown

Well where shall I begin…my team was crowned the champions of TBSX and I was awarded the best female dancer. What more could I have asked for? I am honestly overwhelmed, if you’d asked me 10 days ago how I was feeling about TBS I would have honestly said I was too scared to get on that stage again. In a matter of 10 days, so much has changed, and now to have held not one but two trophies is just amazing.

This could not have been possible without my family and friends who have been my biggest pillars of support. My friend’s wise words of motivation from last week was where it started! And then my parents decided to buy tickets! Knowing my parents were there to watch me was just something else altogether. I have always felt strong about not wanting to let them down, so I hope I have made them proud. Just when I thought I was too spoilt with affection, three of my friends who initially said were not coming, had surprised me on the day of show by coming along to show their support. As I had finished performing and left the stage, I was still a little upset that none of my friends were there to see my performance. I went into the changing room and checked my phone to see that I had received messages from three of them saying how much UoB ‘smashed it’! They had booked their tickets in November and knew they were coming all along, but they wanted to surprise me. They always knew how important TBS has been for me. Yes, I am spoilt with immense love from every direction, which I am forever going to be grateful for.

My brilliant team – I honestly do not know what to say. We trained hard and it was so worth it. We are a group of people who want to get the best out of each other. That is exactly why I enjoying being on the team, however tough the training period may be. When you are surrounded by a group of people who look out for you as if you are family, what more could you ask for? We won because we were more than just 16 dancers, we are a family of 16 and we hope that is what came across on stage. The reason I got the ‘Best Female Dancer’ award was all because of my team. Each one of them pushed me – they encouraged me, critiqued me and ultimately got that inner Punjabi out of me!

Since Saturday I have received so many messages congratulating me and the team for our success. I received even more messages about that fact that people were proud of me for firstly representing the Punjabi culture so honourably, especially considering I am Tamil; and secondly, for the fact that I am a Tamil girl with very little knowledge of the Punjabi culture, yet doing well enough to gain that recognition anyway. What is my take on all of this? Well, I am very shocked that I got this award. This is because the only Bhangra experience I have had is the ones at University. I have never been part of any external teams and therefore I definitely am not very popular in the UK Bhangra Scene. I am quite truthfully a simple Tamil girl who started Bhangra because I love dancing and learning new things. I respect all dance styles, so when I decide to delve into one of them, I want to fully understand the culture behind it rather than just learning a set of moves. That is what I did, and the reason for this is because of my team and their passion. I wanted to understand and be part of that culture so I could best represent it when I dance. All that hard work was so worth it when I danced on that stage on Saturday!

 

Ten days ago, I thought I could not pull this off. And now to come out of the other end of it, and to know that we won and I did not let my team down is the best feeling ever!!! I learnt to believe in what I love doing – dancing! And hell yeah, we smashed it if I say so myself! #TeamUoB #UoBae

 

Write like no one is reading

‘Writing is the painting of the voice’ – Voltaire

I was never a massive fan of writing. Ever since I was a kid, reading books I could do non-stop. Writing, on the other hand, was a big challenge for me. Surprisingly it is now one of my hobbies, just like reading has always been. Why? Well I have found a lot of peace in writing; a lot of time to study and reflect on myself, which I’ve never had the opportunity to do – actually I’ve never given myself the opportunity to do so.

Whenever I feel like my mind is cluttered and I need answers, or whenever I have something strong to say about situations I have encountered both directly and indirectly, I resort to writing it all down now.

Amongst all my friends there are a fair few of us who blog. When I had a chat with a couple of them, we were all in sync with one thing – our blogs only reflect a proportion of the writing that we actually do. The public only gets to see around 10% of what we actually write. This made me realise one thing – we write for ourselves. We write to bring out any thoughts which we want to explore. We write because we love writing.

I have come to really value the importance of writing. I have been going through a whirlwind of emotions in the past few weeks. Therefore, I wrote all my thoughts, insecurities and opinions down. I do not think I will ever share it on social media because honestly speaking those are my personal musings, which I’d prefer to keep to myself. I did nonetheless share it with one of my friends. She was surprised that I allowed her to read something so deep and personal. As a result we ended up talking on end about our insecurities and why we write. Why am I telling you this little story? Well, this is one example to show why I write. I write to let my emotions out. I am awful at expressing myself when I am angry or upset. Writing about it however, provides me with an opportunity to reflect on particular events in my life. It helps me question life, which I was always scared to do.

So here comes my biggest advice to all those who say ‘I’m too scared to write about personal things’. Writing should never be about social media. It should be about yourself. If you ever feel like your ideals may inspire another, and you are brave enough to share it, then kudos to you – you definitely should. For the most part, do it for yourself. Let me reiterate at this point that it does not have to be via writing alone. Some like painting, some like making music, some like choreographing dance pieces. It is so important to value your feelings and with such busy lives we forget to reflect on ourselves. I have found writing as one of my ways of doing so. Start the journey of finding yours. The moment you have, I promise you, you will not turn back.

Saree Loving – Always and Forever

Sarees are absolutely enthralling.

Why is this girl so obsessed about sarees, I hear you asking. Well it all comes down to my mother. She has been and continues to be my biggest inspiration when it comes to wearing sarees. Firstly, she is just impeccable when it comes to draping them. She knows exactly how to make a saree look elegant and sexy all at the same time. She drapes the saree in a way that shows of a girl’s figure in the most modest way possible – she was the one who taught me that one does not need to show off too much skin when wearing a saree to make themselves look sexy…and yes she is 100% right. Secondly, when you see my mum in a saree, you cannot keep your eyes off her. She carries herself so elegantly, really showing off how much she owns that saree! It was her who made me realise that draping and carrying oneself in a saree is a beauty in itself, and if I could drape and carry myself half as well as she does, I would be an extremely happy bunny!

I love wearing all kinds of sarees, but in the past year I have fallen in love with plain sarees. No prints, no sequins, no embroidery, no border. Why? Honestly speaking, I’m in love with simplicity. The simpler something is, the more I fall for it. Over the years, I have realised how much of a simple person I have become and my outfits have started to reflect that.

Favourite Looks

I am definitely not a fashionista, but recently I have been receiving messages about where I get my sarees/blouses from, so I thought to use this space to share that with all of you by showing you all some of my favourite looks (corresponding images for which are in the gallery above).

‘All in Black’ – January 2016 – This was the first ever time I had tried out a plain saree, and the response for it was unbelievable. For some reason, the ‘All in Black’ look came across very sophisticated and most importantly simple. This ‘saree blouse’ was actually a crop top which I got from online.

‘Passion’ – February 2016 – My friends and I decided to call this look ‘Passion’. It is that maroon saree – there was something so empowering about it! I think what everyone really loved about this look was the combination of black and maroon. The ‘saree blouse’ was again a turtle neck style crop top.

The ‘DIY Saree blouse’ look is a combination of that same black saree from before. The blouse is not a crop top at all. In fact, it was originally a normal top which I cut and made into a ‘crop top’. It was a top that I got for £4 and I hardly wore it, hence it felt right to make more use of it with sarees.

Wearing a plain white saree was a risky move indeed. When I bought it, my mum did question my sanity quite a bit. However, the moment she saw these photos she took her words back. White gives off a very elegant and angelic look and that’s what I wanted to put across. The ‘Black and White’ look is a traditional saree drape with a She By Shiyaa halter neck black saree blouse. The ‘Dhoti Drape’ is the same saree draped in the dhoti style (inspired by Bajirao Mastani), and I wore that with my favourite lengha blouse for a recent dance performance.

The ‘Sensual’ look is my recent and most favourite look and it was all down to the crop top. When I saw the crop top online, I could not resist the temptation of buying it. As a crop top, yes it is very sensual indeed. When paired with a saree, it looks that much classier in my opinion. I was a little scared to try it out, but I did it anyway and the compliments came flooding in.

Over the past year, I have realised how much I love pairing sarees with more western blouses/accessories. With all my favourite looks, I hope you understand that I love the mix and match culture. Buying saree sets is honestly too mainstream for me nowadays and what is even more exciting to note is that it is actually so cheap!

So my love for sarees will never stop. If I had the option, I would chose to wear sarees all day, every day. However, jokes aside, I’ve realised that fashion is simple: wear things which you are comfortable in. You should never force anything upon yourself just because someone else does it. Your clothing should be an extension of yourself. I am a very simple girl and I want my outfits to convey that. Ultimately be yourself, because that way you will not need to follow trends – you will be setting the trends!