Shobana Jeyasingh was born in Madras, India in 1957. After completing her formal education in Sri Lankan and East Malaysia, she came to England in 1981 and studied for an MA in Shakespeare Studies at the University of Sussex. As a child, the Jeyasingh family relocated frequently so recreating her sense of identity, belonging and home in a new country came naturally to Shobana Jeyasingh. In an interview with Anne Sacks in the Independent on Sunday in 1993, Jeyasingh dismissed the idea of roots and of finding one place of belonging, deeming it old-fashioned. She said ‘…one has to redefine this whole process, one can be multi rooted without feeling any conflict about it’. This cultural hybridity would later become a prominent theme throughout Jeyasingh’s choreographic practice.
Like most young girls from Tamil Nadu, Jeyasingh had begun taking Bharata Natyam classes as a young child. In London she began to perform as a solo classical dancer. However, Jeyasingh soon grew restless and dissatisfied with dancing to worn out cassettes of Indian classical music in small community centres. She reflected on the social implications of what she began to feel was as predictable performance style for the British audience: the presentation of a classical Indian dance, in bright traditional costumes with heavy make-up and jewellery. Jeyasingh felt that a revolution in the presentation of South Asian dance in Britain was necessary.