A troupe of Gaelic-speaking Bollywood dancers from Staffin in Skye are set to perform at the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival near Beauly in August.
Six years ago Davinder and Sonia Gill moved from London to run Mackenzie stores, a filling station and grocery shop in Staffin. Since then the Gills have introduced takeaway food to the store and their two youngest children Heaven (8) and Prayr (7) have joined as pupils at Staffin Primary School.
Before moving north, Sonia was a dancer in Bhangra and Bollywood groups and performed all over the UK in many shows including at the Dome in Birmingham for the Bhangra Awards. In Skye, the troupe she coaches, Staffin Bollywood, started as a fundraiser for the SkyeDance Festival whose organisers were so impressed they asked the dancers to take part in the festival showcase. Now they have been invited to perform at Belladrum.
Up to 15 children out of the 20 in the school participate, their ages ranging between P1 and P7, all dressed in different Bollywood outfits. They rehearse weekly at the school, and Sonia says they are now looking into fusing Gaelic songs with Bollywood music.
“I go through the different styles of dance when teaching, not only Bollywood as it is important for them to have versatility when dancing” Sonia said. “The kids learn about Indian culture, food, clothes, music, traditions, and of course dance, as there are so many variations of dance giving a different visual result. I learn from them as well: every day is a lesson.”
“Sonia’s troupe is the perfect answer to a prayer for us, given that our theme is Bollywood and we are all about being a family event for a Highlands-wide audience”, said promoter Joe Gibbs.
Together with their other two children, Angel (18) and Dream (17), the Gill family are enjoying their life on Skye. “Skye is an amazing place, a great place to raise children and to be a part of the community,” Sonia said. “People are so nice, we live the dream as it is such a beautiful place.”