An image of a woman in silver heels walking theatrically down a hallway
Ishita Singla | Photo: Avenue Magazine, Jared Sych

Ishita Singla

Breaking barriers in the South Asian community

Cherie McMaster

When Ishita Singla experienced a lack of opportunities for female dancers in her community, she created them herself. The dancer and choreographer is also the artistic director and founder of Madhuban Performing Arts in Calgary, a hub for dancers, singers, musicians and actors rooted in South Asian heritage and cultural forms.

“When I was dancing with all the different South Asian groups here in the city, I found that there was a gap, there was a very defined gap that, first of all, it was a male oriented industry — a  lot of choreographers and lead dancers were male, and there weren’t many opportunities for female dancers to actually, like, you know, go and shine,” she says.

“I think that led me to create Madhuban, and the intention was to create a safe space for artists, a safe space for dancers, whether you are whatever, like, culture, background, whatever you belong to or however you identify, you can just come together and create.”

Singla has the honour of receiving a Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal as well as being a recent recipient of Avenue Magazine’s Top 40 under 40. Today, she sees the South Asian dance community growing and evolving, offering room for experimentation in Calgary, where she believes the city’s arts scene is poised to become world-class.

“I think Calgary is catching up, and how, seriously, it’s becoming the new arts hub in Canada. I totally see it. I just came back from New York, I was there for a week, and I looked to my friend and I was like, I see Calgary getting here. I see Calgary’s arts scene growing so much and exponentially, so that is going to get here one day and we’re going to be in the heart of it.”

Singla and her band performed in a recent Netflix feature, Khufiya — an exciting opportunity to showcase our city as well as the talented artists that reside here. “I think the attention that (the film) received also kind of brings that attention to how Calgary has this pool of talent and arts, especially in South Asian community. And I think that’s beautiful.

“I just love the fact that we’ve had two such big opportunities to prove that, and I’m hoping one day we will become such a big hub that Bollywood films would be recruiting our artists right, left, centre. So that’s my dream, something to aspire to work towards.”

Tune into this week’s Storytelling Podcast to hear more about Ishita Singla’s love of art and her efforts to break down barriers in the South Asian community.


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About The Storytelling Podcast

Sharing diverse stories of creativity in our city, The Storytelling Podcast shines a spotlight on artists and projects that connect Calgarians to the arts. Part of The Storytelling Project, this series raises awareness about Calgarians who, by living creative lives, are making Calgary a better city, affecting positive change and enriching others’ lives.

Have a story to share? Email us at submissions@calgaryartsdevelopment.com.

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