Aaja Nachle - A CAS Success Story.
Priyal Bhoola (2012) and Jignal Bhagvandas (nee Patel, 2010) didn’t know each other at Kristin but a mutual love of dance ensured their paths would cross a few years later. Today they work together running the Aaja Nachle dance school – a business that originated from Jignal’s CAS project. We caught up with Priyal at the Wellington Reunion and she shared this story of Aaja Nachle.
During the week, Jignal and I work as busy health professionals attending to our patients. But outside of work we are dance teachers at an Auckland-based Bollywood dance school, Aaja Nachle. We are both proud Kristin Alumni and everyday after we complete our work commitments, we focus our attention to our budding young dance students.
What is unknown to most is that our popular dance school, with four locations around Auckland, was once a CAS project for Jignal’s IB Diploma.
Individually we both grew up with dancing backgrounds. Jignal is a skilled contemporary, ballet dancer whilst I trained in the Indian classical dance style – Bharatanatyam. Kristin, while academically driven, does lend a big hand in cultural activities and these provided many opportunities for us to push ourselves in our respective specialties. Unfortunately, due to our different year levels we never had the opportunity to collaborate together. However, we both enjoyed performing in Dance in the Dove and International Peace Night, which gave us a great platform to showcase our skills in front of a school audience.
Aaja Nachle first began as a CAS project in 2010, led by Jignal. The main motivation behind this project was to engage students in a unique blend of extracurricular activity whilst staying connected to her Indian heritage. As most humble startups, the first dance studio was in a garage converted into a studio at her parents’ home. After the launch of the first few classes, there was an immediate interest from people all over Auckland. At that point it became apparent that this was a niche area untouched by the Indian-Kiwi community. Fast forward a few years and the school started showing a promising future.
Following our individual graduations from Kristin, Jignal pursued Medicine at Auckland University whilst I moved to Melbourne to study a Bachelor and Masters in Optometry. During this time, the popularity of the dance school spread and attracted students of all ages in different parts of Auckland. Subsequently this led to the recruitment of more teachers, and the school became operational in Botany, Mt Roskill, Western Springs and the North Shore.
With this success, Jignal envisioned more variety at Aaja Nachle by offering different styles of Indian dance. It was at this point, through social media and the alumni network, that we found ourselves communicating over phone about the future of the school. It was an exciting time for us as we shared so much in common in our dancing and professional lives and of course were both ex-Kristin students! Through a series of fortunate events, I returned back to Auckland and started working alongside Jignal in teaching Indian classical dance. The expansion was seamless and soon after we introduced other dance varieties like ‘bolly-fitness’ and drama classes.
Our dance school has now been running for over 5 years and we have a total of 250 enrolled students across all our Auckland locations. We have had the privilege of performing at popular events like the Silo Park Markets, Santa Parade, Sticky TV performances and at half-time shows for the Sky City Breakers. We have also been part of two NZ film documentaries, ‘Both Worlds’ and recently had the honor of hosting a famous Indian Belly Dancer on her tour to NZ.
Having attended a school with an active alumni, we feel lucky to have met and collaborated to further prosper what was once a CAS project into a successful dance school. Our advice to Kristin students: no matter how small the idea, if you believe in it, pursue it and make it work - the rewards are gratifying. And those of you who want to have some fun, why not join us at one of our Bollywood classes. Look us up on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube to follow our progress.