A UTD Bollywood dance team won third place at their first national competition of the 2019-2020 season.
UTD Laksh competed in Jhalak, a national Bollywood fusion dance competition at UT Austin on Nov. 23. The annual competition is hosted by the Indian Cultural Association and features eight teams from around the nation competing to gain points towards Legends, the national championship, which takes place the following spring.
The team was formed two years ago by merging two former UTD dance teams, Chalak and Sharara, said neuroscience sophomore Jevin James, co-captain of Laksh. Since its creation, Laksh members have competed in state and regional competitions and the team was selected to compete in Jhalak for the first time in 2019.
“I saw Jhalak as an exciting opportunity to get out there and get competition experience,” said computer science freshman and dancer Solomon Mathew. “I’m so proud of our team for placing third and for all the hard work that we’ve done this season.”
Laksh is currently composed of 31 men and women, a majority of whom are freshmen. The team is led by captains James and marketing senior Shruthika Kamat. The Bollywood dance team practices a wide variety of styles including bharatanatyam, bhangra, hip-hop and contemporary.
With the majority of the team being freshmen, there are challenges with getting used to the rigorous demands of the dance team, James said. The team holds at least three practices a week that are each three hours long.
“As a freshman, you’re learning how to balance being in college. Being on a dance team takes a lot of time and effort inside and outside of practice. It is also very taxing on your body, due to all the physical strain you put on it,” James said.
The dance team is organized into different committees of students with a variety of roles. There are managers who attend practices and observe the team and make critiques. The team also has a committee of executives which includes a finance committee, a production committee and a choreography committee.
“Our officers put in a lot of effort and dedication,” Mathew said, “The committees work together really well to help the team run like a well-oiled machine.”
As the team approaches competition season, hours of practice and rehearsal increase, James said, making it even more difficult for students to balance coursework with the busy schedule. In practices for upcoming competitions, the team is mainly focusing on improving the skill of retaining critiques and revisions, said dancer Vismaya Joseph, a computer science freshman.
“It’s really important whenever we get critiques that we apply them in the next run instead of forgetting about them,” Joseph said. “It is important to carry corrections from practice to practice, even ones that were made three days or even a week ago. We want to get better with each run.”
UTD’s all-male bollywood dance team, Raftaar also competed in Jhalak this season. They competed in Jhalak in 2018 and won second place, and placed second in Jhalak 2019 as well.
“Raftaar definitely supports us, and we support them,” Joseph said, “I think both teams competing and winning shows just how talented our student body is here at UTD.”
James said that while having the other UTD team compete in the competition was added pressure, it was still an exciting opportunity.
“They’re like our fellow brothers on campus,” James said. “Yeah, there’s always competition, but it was also really exciting to see what both teams put out there. At the end of the day, we just wanted to make the school proud.”