WU’s St. Lungitics compete off campus
What’s more merciless: a judge or a scoreboard? Performance competitions are often the tougher nut to crack when deciding, as “objectively” as possible, who among competitors is the best of the best. Consider that in dancing competitions, for instance, strengthening one’s capacity to spin, jump and keep the beat might not cover the spectrum of what makes a better dancer. Most likely, as senior Kashyap Tadisina said, “If you have good dancers but no swagger,” making it to the podium is unlikely.
Tadisina knows the extensive demands of competitive dancing. He is one of the three choreographers of the St. Lungitics Bhangra team, along with senior Ami Jani and junior Manjaap Sidhu. Comprised of Washington University students, St. Lungitics trains in one of the most popular and competitive Indian dance styles in the nation. Its members endure the stress of judging panels, a divergent but distinct style and long hours of work for the sake of doing what they love and doing it well.
Most of St. Lungitics’ members are recruited during the open auditions for the Diwali Bhangra (the team officially falls under the wing and occasional funding of Ashoka, not Student Union proper). Its members have performed in a variety of activities on campus, such as Celebration Weekend, ThurtenE, Relay For Life and the law school’s Diversity Week. Off campus, the team applies to several competitions—around 30 to 40 Bhangra competitions are held nationwide every year—and prepares intensely for those it qualifies for. For two years, the team has participated in the Dallas-based Raas Rave and Bhangra Blitz competitions, along with teams from Michigan and California and even neighbor teams from Saint Louis University. St. Lungitics has placed third twice, most recently this past February.
“It was a lot of fun,” Tadisina said of the experience. “The whole team bonded. We had a chance to show people across the nation what we do here at Wash. U. People don’t necessarily think that we have a large South Asian community here, or certainly not one that can compete with teams that have hundreds or thousands of people that they can pick from.”
In the national Bhangra scene, St. Lungitics is known to have a modern, youthful edge and is famous for being creative with its formations and moves. In the world of traditional Indian dancing, modernity is not necessarily well received by judges. The top Bhangra teams, according to Tadisina and Jani, tend to be native from Punjab, the region in India where Bhangra originated. These group members often grew up surrounded by the traditional Bhangra motions. For many of St. Lungitics’ members, however, Bhangra is a new experience. Their more creative dancing style—a mixture of what they have learned from each other and other teams—reflects that.
“As far as our modernness, it does affect us,” Jani said. “That’s just our style. We’re not a traditional team. We do get penalized, sometimes by the audience members or the judges. It just depends on what they’re looking for.”
Both Tadisina and Jani refer to the team as a support group or family, the sort in which hard work and fun, even if peppered by the occasional conflict, can lead to a greatly rewarding outcome.
“We all love dancing. You have to kind of have that passion for dancing to have such a dedication to it,” Jani explained. “We want to do our best, and we want to look our best. So we’ll go to 2 to 3 in the morning to make sure we go out there and give our 110 percent, regardless of whether we place.”
According to Tadisina, the team aims to expand to open lessons in the future in the hopes of connecting more with the student body. “We’re always eager to get our name out there, teach everybody else something that we have learned to love,” he said.