Dancing is not just for the slim and the fit. It is something that can be done by anyone and Sharon Khelawan (pictured) is proving just that.
The 32-year-old research assistant for the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre is not only passionate about women's rights but the freedom for individuals to express themselves through dance. She is a dancer, choreographer and runs her own dance group named after her.
Born and bred in Suva, Sharon grew up in Namadi Heights.
Her parents were Jack and Shyam Khelawan, former principals of Dilkusha High and Dilkusha Girls respectively. The younger of two, Sharon was exposed to a lot of activities but dancing soon became a passion at the tender age of 10.
"I never thought I would also take up dancing professionally so I used to dance for fun. I wanted to become a lawyer when I was young. "A lot of people have said I am very talkative but I believe one day I will achieve that aim.
"The striking thing about being a lawyer is fighting for justice and helping people. Even though I am not a lawyer, I am still helping people in my profession whether at the centre or with dancing." Although a Methodist, Sharon attended primary school at Saint Annes before finishing her secondary education at Saint Josephs.
She then went on to complete a degree in Sociology at the University of the South Pacific. The interesting thing about Sharon is managing studies and dancing. She is the only local to specialise in kathak which is six dances of India consisting of fast spins, facial expressions and movements.
The difference between this dance and bharat natyam is it is done straight legged.
"I have been dancing since I was in Class Four. My sister had a big interest in this dance so we were taught the dance at the Indian Cultural Centre. "My first teacher was a male, Syed Asgar Trimizi.
"When I went to high school, I still practised the dance at the cultural centre. During the secondary schools music festival some time in 1992 or 1993, Saint Josephs was asked to perform during Indian night. "I performed with about 10 girls and I was so nervous but the support and the cheering from the other girls boosted my morale."
It was a memory she never forgot. At 19 years old, Sharon began to teach kathak professionally.
Although she was not taken seriously because of her age, Sharon made it a point to show that she had the knowledge and the passion to dance and choreograph.
In 2004, she was the lead dancer and choreographer for the Fiji contingent to the second Paravisi Bharitiya Divas in Delhi, India. It was a proud moment for her when her name was called out and like the other dancers who were nervous, Sharon danced her heart out.
"I have done solo dances in New Zealand and Canada but I have received lots of support from my family and people who have seen the dance.
"My mother is my biggest critic and I appreciate and love her for that. "My father was very supportive when he realised it not only gave me a whole lot of confidence but he knew it was something that really touched my heart.
"I lead a dual life. One is helping women through my work at FWCC and the other is helping dancers appreciate Indian culture." Her ideas come naturally and consist of a fusion of mixed cultures. She even choreographs moves for Fijian songs and is thinking of doing a drama along the same lines.
Proud of who she is and her cultural heritage, Sharon is living proof that size really does not matter when it comes to a matter close to the heart.
Adapted from Fijitimes Online