The London School of Bollywood Dance Team Is Subverting the Binary and Taking Names

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You can’t beat Bollywood.

While the London School of Economics is known as one of the most prestigious universities in the world, hosting and home to many Nobel laureates and world leaders, it is also now known as something completely different–an incubator for amazing dance talent.

The London School of Bollywood, or LSB, skyrocketed to fame earlier this year after making it to the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent. Thousands of viewers tuned in to watch this gender and sexuality inclusive dance team audition, perform, and slay.

After one of their performances on the show, Judge Alesha Dixon beamed at them bright enough for the whole crowd to see.

“I’m telling you— you cannot beat the energy, the vibrancy, the colors, the joy of Bollywood,” she said. “You cannot beat it.”

That performance received a 10/10 from the notoriously unshakable Simon Cowell. David Walliams called it “a beautiful story” that he could relate to, “a celebration of what it means to be different.”

Prior to Britian’s Got Talent, the group was performing and competing on the U.K university circuit. Prasanth Palliath, the group’s choreographer, started the Bollywood dance team in 2015 to compete in a national dance competition. The team is formed from friends he made along the dance circuit. Many are from his original dance team at the London School of Economics.

Dance and music shows others how we understand, embrace, and resist the world. These forms of expression are unifying but they are not apolitical, he told Kajal.

“LSB understands that there are cultural barriers to gender equality–both in the east and west,” Palliath said over email. “By creating a routine that challenged traditional gender stereotypes, we were able to show that a group of British Asians could and would be progressive.”

LSB member Shiva Raichandani dances with the team wearing a lehnga and bright lipstick. He was dubbed the “surprise element” by the Britain’s Got Talent judges.

“An hour before going onstage to perform, my make-up artist told me, ‘You know what you’re doing is huge, right? Somewhere out there, a young child watching you do this on TV is going to smile knowing that he can be whoever he wants to,'” Raichandani said.

In the aftermath of their first performance, messages poured in for Raichandani thanking him and telling him how much the dance meant to them. Raichandani say he recognizes that we live in a heteronormative world, where many people experience prejudice and unkindness for being themselves. He wishes we didn’t live in a world where utilizing hypervisibility was necessary.

For Raichandani, dancing in a skirt and lipstick wasn’t a big deal. But for a lot of people, it is. He sees his performance as small step that will help further the dialogue around gender and its fluidity.

I’ve always believed that dance provides us with a safe space to express ourselves in whichever way we choose,” Raichandani said. “In many ways, dancing is cathartic…I get to communicate things that words fail to do. It’s almost spiritual. There is power in dance. There’s freedom in dance.”

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Jasleena Grewal is the Senior Writer at Kajal Magazine. She writes your monthly horoscopes and puts together the playlists. Find her on Twitter @jasleenagrewal.

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