Over the past 14 years a Catholic woman has nurtured thousands of Bangladeshi students in the art of dance, enabling many to go on to forge interesting and rewarding careers in the performing arts. Thanks to Shipra Parish
, 34 many students have found work at national and international level and say that they remain forever grateful to their great teacher. Her Dipto Dance Academy is a pioneering and leading school in Bangladesh’s pluralistic and culture-oriented society. It offers students courses ranging from one to five years. “I perform regularly on national and satellite television channels. The training here is rich and very professional,” said Virginia Gomes, 14, a Catholic student. She was speaking at the academy’s annual awards ceremony held recently at the bishops’ conference
center in Dhaka. Fifty students received awards for excellent performances while 10 notable Christian personalities received honorary awards. Special guests including Archbishop Paulinus Costa of Dhaka and Catholic State minister for Cultural Affairs Promod Mankin were there to hand out the prizes. Although Parish’s academy is renowned for its dancing it also puts a lot of focus on students’ academic studies. “I’ve obtained a scholarship besides learning dance. Our dance teachers say that we should put academic education first and then dance,” said Priana Gomes, 15. Saima Akter, 22, a former student, says she became a teacher after completing her training at the academy. “This academy has made me self-reliant. Today I teach dance to 10 students,” she said. Catholic State minister for Cultural Affairs Promod Mankin praised the parish and promised that he would help her academy grow. “Dance is an appealing art form for many around the world. I would like to thank Shirpa Parish for her contributions and assure her more space will be found to expand her academy,” he said. Archbishop Costa eulogized Parish’s contribution saying, “Shipra Parish represents minorities through her sincerity. She is a leader in promoting religious and cultural values though her work in dance as well.” Parish said her academy originally started with just three students and has come a long way since those humble beginnings. Italian Father Arturo Speziale from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions was her inspiration, she said. The academy currently has 750 students, most of them are Muslims.