Profile of a Masalamomma: Bageshree Vaze


Portrait of a masalamomma

Each month we’ll have an interview with a masalamomma who talks to us about being a South Asian working mom, juggling it all but still managing to find creative ways to maintain a sense of the culture in her family. This month we spoke with Bageshree Vaze, a talented internationally-acclaimed Indo Canadian dancer and choreographer.  She was named by MTV in India  as a rising star and her single ‘Deewana’ won a film festival award in France: the 2004 Annecy. Bageshree Vaze received the Reelworld film festival award for Outstanding Canadian Music video in 2006.

Vaze moved from India to Canada as a child.  She learned  Hindustani classical vocal music with her father, Dr. Damodar Vaze her father, a pediatrician.   It was a fellowship  from the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, that allowed her to study  with the late Guru T.K. Mahalingam Pillai.  She moved to Ontario in the mid 1990’s and began her career developing dance incorporating both North Indian music and South Indian dance.

Tell us a bit about you and your life as a working mom

As a self-employed/freelance artist, it is great on one level, sometimes more challenging on another. My daughter just turned four and until last year, she was at home all the time. In the first year, a baby sleeps a lot and it was possible for me then to practice dance and singing and take care of administrative matters fairly easily during the day. However, once she turned 1 and needed constant stimulation/attention, it became challenging to get anything done. And as an artist, often weekends are the busiest with performances. My mother and father used to live in Newfoundland, but luckily they moved to Toronto a couple of years ago, so my mom is constantly on babysitting duty! A lot of my schedule revolves around rehearsals, recording and performances, but as someone running my own arts company, there is a lot of grant writing involved as well as other administrative work to be taken care of. But since my husband is also an artist, our daughter understands there is a time for play and work.


Was your own mother a source of inspiration when it comes to being a parent? In what way?

Absolutely. She was a doctor, but her name is Pratibha, which means talent, and she is a gifted painter, craftswoman and singer. My love for dance came from her, and she was always encouraging, as well as a great example of someone who was constantly working both in her career and at home. She was heavily involved in the St. John’s temple, and contributed a lot to her community. However, she never sacrificed spending time with her children, and we took lots of trips together. She taught me Marathi, and many things about life and culture as well as being a best friend — which she still is! I try to approach motherhood the same way, and I realize how lucky I am, since I know many of my friends don’t have the same relationship with their mothers.

How do you juggle your work life and motherhood?

Again, as a freelancer/self-employed artist, it is really important to be organized and efficient, since there are no fixed hours. When you’re a mom, you realize how important it is to multitask without sacrificing being meticulous. Ultimately children are the most important blessing in life, so it’s also important to choose how you spend your time and setting priorities.

Why is working important to you?

In this day and age, regardless of gender, working is a part of life — I was brought up with that work ethic, and that will never change. As an artist, retirement is not really an option or a desire!


How do you manage cultural expectations when it comes to family and parenting?

It’s not really an issue since my husband is a tabla player and his parents are very supportive of our artistic endeavors. I myself was brought up in an environment where all women have careers.


How do you creatively inject culture into your family’s everyday routine?

Since I do Indian dance and music, it’s already the biggest element of our daily lives. At the same time, it was never imposed on me, so I don’t want to force my daughter into anything. She seems to like singing and dancing, so let’s see what happens…


How did you get into your field of work?

My father learned music from his father and as I mentioned my mother is very artistic as well. They always encouraged me in my studies of Indian classical music and dance. In the beginning, I pursued it as a hobby, but as opportunities kept coming up, it pretty much chose me, rather than me choosing to make a career of it. There were no Indo-Canadian role models to follow, and it continues to be an esoteric journey.


Who inspires you, who has been a role model for you?

The great legends of Indian classical dance and music — my teachers, people like Pt. Birju Maharaj, Ravi Shankar, Zakir Hussain, Akram Khan, and believe it or not many American/Hollywood personalities. Ultimately, I admire anyone who has passion and dedication, and fights the odds in pursuing their dreams.

To read our previous masalamomma profile click here.

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