A PAGE IN HISTORY
Born: March 3, 1942, Bombay, India
Died: February 5, 2022, Toronto
Menaka Thakkar was 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 was 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 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 was often inspired by India’s great poets, such as Rabindranath Tagore. Thakkar 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 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. For over 40 years Thakkar’s company presented stirring and acclaimed dances internationally.
- Menaka Thakkar Electronic Archives (digital photographs)
- Journal article: “Portrait of an Indian Dancer in Canada: Menaka Thakkar” by Rasesh Thakkar
- Photographic prints
- Publicity materials
- Dance in Canada Association Photo Collection, Dance in Canada Association Portfolio
BOOKS / PUBLICATIONS
- Saxton, Nadine. 2000. “Menaka Thakkar”. In Susan Macpherson, ed. Encyclopedia of Theatre Dance in Canada/Encyclopédie de la Danse Théâtrale au Canada. Toronto: Dance Collection Danse Press/Presse. ISBN: 0-929003-42-X
- Dandekar, Sarala. 2004. “The Rebel Goddess: An Investigation of the Shift in Narrative in Indian Classical Dance” In Selma Landen Odom and Mary Jane Warner, eds. Canadian Dance: Visions and Stories. Dance Collection Danse Press/Presse. ISBN: 0-929003-46-2
- Dance Collection Danse Magazine, Issue 61
- Three Monkeys (1971)
- Geet Govinda (1976, remounted 2008)
- Wise Monkey and Foolish Crocodile (1979, remounted in 2005)
- Seeta-Swayamvaram (1979)
- Sculpture in Motion (1981)
- Blue Saturn (1983, with Grant Strate)
- Ritu Chakra: Cycle of Seasons (1985)
- Bhanusingher Padavali (1986)
- Karna-Kunti (1986)
- Parashakti (1991, remounted in 2005)
- Moods of Morning (1992, with Robert Desrosiers)
- Untitled (1992)
- Shapes and Rhythms (1993)
- Ganesh Nartanam (1993)
- Sitayana (1994, remounted in 2005)
- Ardhanarishwara (1995)
- Farewell to Heaven (1996, with composer Alex Pauk)
- Interior Landscape – 3 Versions (1996, 1997)
- Raga-Ranga (1997)
- Duality (1997, with Claudia Moore)
- A Curious Talk (1998)
- Mukti Nad – Call of Freedom (1999)
- Land of Cards (2000, with Danny Grossman, Bengt Jörgen, William Lau and Patrick Parson)
- In the Further Soil (2001, remounted 2011)
- Scattered Memories (2003)
- Love’s Folly (2003)
- Homecoming (2003)
- Pattano Pradesh – The Queen of Spades (2004)
- Chitra – Warrior Princess (2006)
- Riaz (2007) (choreographed by Natasha Bakht for Menaka Thakkar Dance Co.)
- Moving To Rhythm (2008)
- Geet Govinda (2008, new version)
- Shakti (2009) (acquired from the estate of Chandralekha, adapted from the original work Sri)
- Agni Ratha – Fiery Chariot (2010)
- Prince Rama in the Wilderness (2010)
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