Cousins Thusitha Suriyakumar, Rochelle Joseph, Michelle Joseph and Abbena Ramesh performed contemporary South Asian dance at the Toronto Mela Festival on Sept. 7

New Bollywood dance troupe perform at Toronto Mela

Summer fest celebrates South Asian culture at Scarborough Town Centre

They came together just two months ago.

Then it was a family wedding. On this day it was centre stage at Toronto Mela Summer Festival held at Scarborough Town Centre.

“I think for our first public appearance we did great and the crowd itself was very supportive,” Thusitha Suriyakumar said.

The informal Bollywood dance troupe Suriyakumar and her cousins formed were part of an event hosted by Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) on Sept. 7.

The festival included service organizations providing advice, like how to prevent diabetes, vendors selling colourful South Asian clothing and jewellery, a play area for children, and live entertainment.

But what made the festival different, according to CASSA’s executive director Neethan Shan, was its location.

“It is very unique because it is in Scarborough,” he said. “A lot of South Asian festivals are not happening in Scarborough: it is either the west side or downtown.”

“Our Scarborough community is very rich,” festival organizer Mahbub Hasan said. “We would like to celebrate the cultural diversity and we want to bring other community members together in this place in a day where they can celebrate the South Asian culture.”

Rumainaisa Rahman, left, and Intisaar Najmeen perform a Bengali dance at the Toronto Mela Festival 2013.
Rumainaisa Rahman, left, and Intisaar Najmeen perform a Bengali dance at the Toronto Mela Festival 2013. (Theresa Spohn/Scarborough Observer)

That sense of community was more immediate for child performers Intisaar Najmeen, 11, and Ruminaisa Rahman, 10. To them, it all came down to having a trusted teammate to share the stage.

“I have somebody else, so I don’t really feel that nervous,” said Ruminaisa. “If I make a mistake, Intisaar will always be there.”