We are in the basement of the Mercer Building, having a coffee in the new Transcend location, just a few floors below Sarah Dharshi’s office. She’s decked out in all black, neo-Run DMC-attire with winterized Nike Roshers, fashionable leggings with angled seems, solid-coloured baseball jersey and a thick gold chain wrapped around her neck. Her swagger is impressive but when she begins to share her vision for Bad Bitch Mentality, I realize Sarah’s wild style is bred to the bone.
The story of Bad Bitch Mentality (BBM) began in 2011, when Sarah and a few of her friends came together to enter a charity event showcasing local talent at the now defunct Avenue Theatre, a former hotbed for both established local talent and upcoming acts. Believing their entry was more of a shot in the dark than a spot in the limelight, the young girls were surprised when they placed well and channeled their early success into what would become the strongest all-female dance groups since Fly Girls back in the mid-2000s.
Sarah was introduced to dance through the freestyle circuit, experiencing first-hand that only the strong survive in the industry. Sarah quickly identified the need for young girls to be taught proper form and the self-confidence by females, thus allowing a mutual understanding of the unique challenges women face, as well as the deeper-bond that enables them to take hold of each performance. Bad Bitch Mentality, Edmonton’s first all-female instructor and pupil-based dance group, was born with the vision to use performance as the trajectory to redefine the word “bitch”.
Sarah ingeniously decided to change the conversation, taking ownership of the word ‘bitch’ and make it into a statement of empowerment. In an industry that breeds well-defined stereotypes, Bad Bitch Mentality’s strength lies in their differences; embracing their diversity of ethnicity, body size, and occupation(for example, one of their original members, Jackie Alexander, is a carpenter!) Ultimately, BBM is enabling women of all ages, skill levels and backgrounds to address the difficulties of balancing their femininity with the aggressive nature of contemporary urban dance. Ultimately, shifting the purpose of ‘”bitch” from an insult, to becoming a term to be earned through respect.
Bad Bitch Mentality’s ability to nurture both a sense of community, (with a 24/7 group chat – no, not on BlackBerry Messenger!), succeed in competitions while growing a demand for corporate and community events is making the group from humble beginnings a force within our city.
Taking note from a Beyoncé song, I believe it’s safe to say: Sarah’s a bad bitch and her friends are, too.
Photography courtesy of Ivan N Photo.