Nila is a freelance journalist and Clinical Psychology Doctoral student…
Desi dance influencers are on the rise! These ridiculously talented humans have found a way to express their art and bring it to us on a silver platter through social media. South Asian dancers have found a way to fuse dance forms like Bharatnatyam and break dancing all to the tune of your favorite Bollywood soundtracks.
There are millions of talents to scroll through so we’ve narrowed the list down to 13 dope AF dancers you absolutely MUST follow! Many of these dancers don’t just post dance covers online but teach dance classes as well. Even with quarantine limiting the ability to hold classes in person, you can’t hold a good dancer down! You can catch online dance classes with many of these dancers.
Take a look at which dancers are worth your time (in no particular order)!
1. Chaya Kumar and Shivani Bhagwan
Chaya Kumar and Shivani Bhagwan are the founders of the dance company Bfunk. They add a contemporary twist to traditional Bollywood and Bhangra steps and have been representing the culture in the mainstream market. The duo has created opportunities for themselves like no other North American desi dancers have. They’ve choreographed and performed on stage with mega Bollywood stars at the IIFA Awards, have been featured in music videos, and have taught classes to the masses for years now. These pioneers among desi dance influencers in North America have paved the way for many of the dancers on our list to do what they do best.
2. Swarali Karulkar
Swarali Karulkar’s scintillating success on the dance floor shone the spotlight on her from a young age. One to romanticize fluid movements and the depth of expressions that dance can convey, Swarali trained as a dancer when she was just about six. Soon enough, she found herself waltzing through some of the biggest shows on South Asian television, such as ‘Dance India Dance’ and a string of movies. Today she is a choreographer, dance educator, movement therapist, and the founder of Bollyheels. One look at her dance videos will have you hooked!
3. Joya Kazi
A true boss lady, she took her passion for dance and made her career with it. Her dance video “Madhuri Dixit Birthday Tribute” was nominated for the Favorite Dance Concept Video at the Universal Dance Awards 2019. She actively teaches with ‘Joya Kazi Unlimited’ and was recently featured in Mindy Kaling’s ‘Never Have I Ever.’
4. Svetlana Tulasi
She is half-Indian and half-Russian and a trained traditional Kathak dancer. Her stunning dance performances in Ukraine’s Got Talent TV show in 2013 did not only set the small screen on fire in Russia but also won her huge national and international recognition. The video clips of her Kathak-Bollywood dance fusion pieces posted on YouTube has already received millions of views and comments from across the world.
5. Tanya Thanawalla
Tanya Thanawalla is a young dancer from Texas that is currently conquering New York City with her dance moves. She is the co-founder of South Asian Grooves, better known as just SA Grooves. She not only releases dance covers and teaches, but she has created a series titled Stories by Tanya where, as the title suggests, she uses dance to tell a story.
6. Manpreet Toor
While other South Asian Americans gained popularity through their mix of western dance forms and Bollywood music, Manpreet Toor rose to fame with more traditional forms of dance. She is the epitome of grace and is so expressive. Toor has not just released dance covers but she’s also been featured as the leading lady in music videos and her dance classes are some of the most sought after classes among the South Asian diaspora in the United States.
7. Melvin Louis
Melvin Louis is a well-known choreographer, dancer, and influencer in India. He’s worked with everyone from television stars to Bollywood heartthrobs of the industry. His work has gained him compliments from the legend Amitabh Bachchan himself. He got his start on the dance reality show “Dance India Dance.” Not many people know that he’s also been featured as a speaker in TEDx sessions in the college circuit in India.
8. Ridy Sheikh
Ridy Sheikh is a Bangladeshi-Russian dancer and choreographer with quite the resume. The young star is trained in classical dance and has been featured on Ukraine’s auditions of “So You Think You Can Dance.” She was also a member of Kumari Suraj’s House of Suraj dance group that was featured on Dance Plus season 3. She has since moved to Bangladesh and runs weekly dance classes as well as releasing dance covers and is featured regularly on Bengali television events. She even returns to her hometown of Russia to teach classes and create dance covers with her dancer colleagues. Sheikh has skills in classical dance as well as contemporary forms of dance and even releases comedic videos as an influence on Instagram.
9. Simran Jat
Simran is a dancer and choreographer in Mumbai, India. This dancer’s performances are always fun and sassy just like her. Her joy while dancing is always present in her expressions which is what makes this dancer so enjoyable to watch. Simran is versatile in her skills though she leans towards a more contemporary dance style. Just last year, Simran choreographed Nuclyea and Raja Kumari for the titled track of “MTV Hustle” and this year she was featured along with her students at the City Showcase India, a live dance show curated by Melvin Louis.
Akanksha of Aka Nach has been building her fanbase for many years now and she is worth the shout out for her phenomenal work. A Toronto native who now lives and works between Toronto and Mumbai, Akanksha is a well-rounded influencer. She can do it all from semi Classical dance forms to funky bhangra dance covers.
11. Amit Patel
Amit Patel is a God on the dance floor in heels and absolutely one of the most mesmerizing dancers on this list. He’s known for both his classes in Bollywood heels dance numbers and his Indian contemporary work. Patel is a graceful presence on the dance floor and I would be surprised if you manage to take your eyes off of this dancer when he’s performing. Patel is not just a dancer and choreographer, he is a teacher and Queer activist as well. Based in California, he teaches classes twice a week and even has a YouTube class you can tune into.
12. Anisha Babbar
Anisha Babbar isn’t just another choreographer and dancer, she’s a leader with an entire troupe of fierce dancers like herself. This dancing queen has been working the college dance circuit for quite some time. She has been balancing school, dance, family, and work since she was 16 years old. She’s performed everywhere from South Asian talk shows to dance competition stages.
13. Deepta Banik
Deepta Banik is a versatile performer, he can dance, act, and choreograph. Banik has taken on challenges of not just dance covers and classes but acted in elaborate theater shows. Banik is such a powerful dancer he can take on any dance form and make it seem so effortless.
Nila is a freelance journalist and Clinical Psychology Doctoral student who was born and raised in New York City. There is very little she loves more than Harry Potter marathons, pizza, 90s Bollywood, bagels, falooda, and her family. She hopes to use her powers for good by spreading mental health awareness and positivity in the South Asian community through her love of writing.