Showcasing the many pioneers of Indian dance forms

 Showcasing the many pioneers of Indian dance forms

Mohan Khokar with his first dance teacher Zohra Sehgal, clicked by Ashish Khokar

Team L&M

HABITAT WORLD with Mohan Khokar Dance Collection@IGNCA, continues to offer quality virtual dance films under the creative baton of Prof Ashish Mohan Khokar. The PIONEERS of Indian Dance (part 1 – 1901s to 1940s) features Russian, American, British artistes like Anna Pavlova, Ted Shawn, Ragini Devi, Louise Lightfoot who came to India, got inspired and discovered Uday Shankar, Ram Gopal, Gopinath and Anand Shivaram and partnered them in dance.

American pioneer Ted Shawn as Nataraja,
after coming to India in 1927-28

“These pioneers came all the way on a ship those days, taking 30 to 60 days to reach! They actually opened our eyes to the beauty of our own art forms, which for centuries lay submerged under a long colonial and central Persian rule of 500 years” notes India’s only qualified dance historian Khokar. “It is a strange twist of history: The very western people who colonised us, also opened our eyes to our own great arts! But with a huge difference: Russians, Americans and even Australians never colonised India but loved our arts and helped revive it, but not the actual colonists , the British, chiefly. They reduced it to Nautch,” he remarked.

The film is rare as it contains footage donated personally by Ram Gopal (Ashish Khokar’s mother the veteran Bharatanatyam guru of India today at 90 year old, MK Saroja was Ram Gopal’s dancing partner (like Mrinalini Sarabhai and Kumidini Lakhiya. Her guru Vidwan Muthukumaran Pillai was Ram Gopal’s guru too, and Rukmini Devi’s, later!) to the Khokar Collection. Ditto, Uday Shankar, who gave many personal memorabilia and letters and film to his authorised biographer Mohan Khokar, who was also his closest friend in his end years . Guru Gopinath stayed with Khokar family when he visited Delhi and gifted old books and photos. So did many others, over five decades. The A to Z of the Indian dance world. Name anyone in the last century and the chances are one would find something in the Khokar Collection. Boxes have been sorted and accessioned@IGNCA by a trained team of museumologist Harsharani and documentationist Hanumant.

Uday Shankar – best known for creating a fusion
style of dance

No wonder with so much history, the Khokar family is hailed as the “first -family of Indian dance history” by the international dance community. New York Public Library for Performing Arts , the Stockholm Dance Museum, TTB Italy and Mandappa in Paris, the NCPA in Mumbai, all wanted to possess the famed Khokar Dance Collection but in the end thanks to the vision of Dr Sachidanand Joshi, IGNCA had the privilege and good fortune of getting the entire huge Collection. Dancer-trustees Sonal Mansingh and Padma Subrahmanyam supported this totally, as have scholars Saryu Doshi and Bharat Gupt. The MKDC is soon to be set up as a Permanent Gallery and Performing Arts Resource centre, for researchers, academicians, critics, film makers and sociologists, including of course the ordinary PhD student.

The film PIONEERS is short (12 min) and sweet. A must watch! Every Tuesday a new episode, loaded on Habitat’s Utube channel.



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