Event in the past.

India Dance Festival: Meet the icons: Chandralekha - Online

Free program

Meet the Icons

Indian dance has a rich history in which a lot of attention has been given to the way in which traditions are passed on from generation to generation. The strong bond between teacher and student is the basis for teaching dance. This system of transmission seems to fade into the background, with dance artists developing their own unique voice and thereby influencing and enriching the dance in a penetrating way.

Meet the Icons focuses on the unique universe of four key figures in Indian dance. Get to know four powerful female artists who have profoundly influenced the course of dance history and who still do.

You can watch the various programs for free from the premiere until May 29 at our Youtube channel.

Thursday 19 May: Prothima Bedi
Saturday 21 May: Chandralekha
Tuesday 24 May: Mallika Sarabhai
Thursday 26 May: Malavika Sarukkai


A towering intellectual of the Indian dance world, Chandralekha (6.12.1928 – 30.12.2006) challenged the conventional premises of classical dance and celebrated the freedom of the human body with her numerous dance productions. She addressed the basic principle of feminine energy and power in the body and did not hesitate to explore the deep beauty of the erotic. With her performances, in which she combined Bharatanatyam, yoga, pranayama and Kalarippayattu (a martial art from Kerala), she produced some of the best examples of contemporary Indian dance.

Breaking free of the narrative conventions, Chandralekha was more interested in the traditions of abstraction, as elaborated in concepts of space and time as well as the pure geometry of the body. She saw sexuality, sensuality, and spirituality as indivisible in her work.

Chandralekha’s sharp interventions were controversial with Bharatanatyam purists. However, she attracted considerable attention among audiences in India and abroad and had creative links with choreographers as diverse as Susanne Linke, Lin Hwai Minh, Sardono Kusumo and Pina Bausch. Many saw her as an Indian Martha Graham, though Chandra herself, opposed to labels of any kind, took impish pleasure in describing herself as ‘the true traditionalist’.

In this Meet the Icons program we talk with Chandralekha's creative partner and long-time collaborator Sadanand Menon. A prominent critic and media personality, he presents for the India Dance Festival, a bouquet of documentary footage from the Chandralekha Archives, comprising her talks, interviews and snippets from her ground-breaking choreography. The visual excerpts are from the works of filmmakers Iffat Fatima and Ein Lall.

Chandralekha: My work is about linking inner and outer spaces. We live in the body without understanding its vital centres and without the knowledge of how to bridge the inner-outer divide. 

Sadanand Menon: She was keen on stripping the body bare and looking at it again, exploring the sources of energy in our body. It led her to focus on the vital role of the spine. 

Event in the past.

India Dance Festival: Meet the icons: Chandralekha - Online


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