Menaka Thakkar is a master of three classical Indian dance styles: bharatanatyam, odissi and kuchipudi. She began studying bharatanatyam at the age of four and, by her mid-twenties, she was also proficient in odissi and kuchipudi. Becoming a master of the art requires years of intensive dance training under the guidance of an experienced guru, and the training includes both physical and spiritual aspects.
Audiences received Thakkar's 1972 Canadian tour with great enthusiasm, which encouraged Thakkar to immigrate to Canada at the height of her solo dance career. Through her performances, educational outreach programs and dance school, Thakkar is one of the first artists to introduce Classical Indian dance to Canada.
In 1975, Thakkar opened Nrytakala: The Canadian Academy of Indian Dance, with the goals of providing training and building awareness of Indian arts and culture in Canada. Some of the graduates of the school have gone on to join the Menaka Thakkar Dance Company, which she founded in 1978. The company has toured internationally and performed in cities such as Houston, Tokyo and London.
Thakkar's choreography is known to be feminist, experimental and informed by traditional Indian stories. She has often been inspired by India's great poets, such as Rabindranath Tagore. Thakkar has collaborated with ballet and modern dance artists such as Grant Strate, Robert Desrosiers, Claudia Moore, Danny Grossman, Bengt Jörgen and Patrick Parson. Such collaborations resulted in the creation of innovative works such as Land of Cards (2000) and Duality (1997), which weave together contemporary and classical traditions.
Thakkar has received a Dora Mavor Moore Award nomination, an honorary doctorate from York University and was awarded the Tri-National Creative Residency Award offered by the United States' National Endowment for the Arts, among other honours. After 40 years in Canada, Thakkar's company continues to present stirring and acclaimed dances internationally.
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