Shalene Surajbally – For The Love Of Dance

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By Kimberly Wallace, HER Magazine

Until recently, Shalene Surajbally was a woman whose heart was divided in two. She was at the top of her game professionally, but was also devoted to her life’s passion – teaching East Indian dance and developing her company Woodland Dance Academy, which is the only dance school to have its own production Shubh Din broadcast on national television. Surajbally knew that one day she would have to sacrifice one for the other.

That day came in September 2023 when she shifted focus and left the corporate world to become a full-time dance teacher.

 “It was an emotional decision, but definitely a leap of faith that was worth taking, at least while I am still young and capable of doing so,” said the dancer.

Surajbally grew up in a conservative Hindu household. She began dancing at the age of four and came up with her own choreography which she practised in her personalised dance studio. For the past 27 years, dance has been a constant feature in Surajbally’s life. Whatever change was happening around her,  dance remained among her foremost priorities.

“Dance is something that is relaxing, yet it provides a sense of exercise, which is very important to our well-being as it is a stress reliever. It also helps with self-confidence and gives us a sense of fulfillment,” she said.

Surajbally founded the Woodland Dance Academy and took on the roles of instructor, choreographer and costume designer. While she was building up her dance school, which specialises in Devotional, Indian Classical, Garba and Bollywood dance, Surajbally was also making strides in her career. One year after she began working with the Caribbean Communications Network Limited, she was promoted from Group Digital Media Assistant to Group Marketing Officer. The job brought with it other benefits; Surajbally was able to promote dance and culture through media coverage via newspaper and television interviews. The marketing experience she gained on the job also helped her to finetune her own homegrown business. Eventually, dance-related opportunities started clashing with her work hours. Surajbally knew that something had to give. Her love for teaching East Indian dance won and she decided to make it her career.

“I knew making a sacrifice was the only way forward and I was eager to be a young entrepreneur in the field of arts and culture,” she said.

By motivating and developing young dancers she believes she is keeping the East Indian culture and traditions alive. Additionally, the dance styles taught at the Woodland Dance Academy promote morals, values, ethics and respect for one another. Surajbally places great emphasis on the uniforms and costume designs, since she does not believe in dressing her dancers with their midriffs exposed. Her style of choreography focuses on graceful movements.

Pursuing her passion isn’t without its fair share of challenges, but Surajbally remains optimistic.

“Challenges are temporary and we must always remember what our mind attracts is what we manifest. Always put positive things into the universe because it will come back to us ten times greater. This mindset actually elevated me and my relationship with God got stronger.”

The Woodland Dance Academy has since grown from two to six branches.

The academy provides a platform for youths and adults to showcase their dance skills on various stages throughout the country. Every year the school puts on a special performance which is televised on national television during the Divali season. Their latest  performance Shubh Din 4 will be televised on TV6 from November 11 – 13.

“We will continue to make a great impact on the cultural landscape,” said Surajbally.

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