Mallika Sarabhai is a performer and creator of many talents. Her career has developed from being a young, internationally acclaimed, classical dancer and film personality, to being an activist and commentator on social issues. Now an established artist she celebrates positive reaffirmation of images of womanhood through dance, theatre and writing. Following the rich and inspiring model of her mother Mrinalini, Mallika has placed herself firmly at the cutting edge of Indian dance and dance theatre. In a culture which favours conservatism she wields the vocabularies of Indian traditions as trenchant tools to sculpt new reactions in her audiences. As dancer, actress, choreographer, writer, or instigator of community projects she challenges audiences to sit up and think, realign themselves to questions of ecology, women’s place in society, gender awareness, cultural atrophy, the very place of the arts in our society. Deeply rooted in Indian cultures, but open to the influences of her collaborations around the world she has synthesized her experiences to become one of the most exciting creative influences in India today. Dynamic, charming and dry-witted, she is a rare creature in the arts. Mallika is co-director of Darpana Academy of Performing Arts in Ahmedabad, a unique centre for the arts which has performed all over India and all around the world. Here she directs the Darpana Performance Group; the Janavak Folk and Tribal Dance Company; Darpana for Development; Darpana Communications; and the Darpana Conservatoire. At the root of Mallika’s performance is her expertise and deep knowledge of two forms of Indian classical dance, Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh respectively. As a young woman she won international awards for her classical dance, and she is still learning items from her gurus, some of which she alone in the world can perform. Even in these forms she has rejected items which she feels stem from overtly patriarchal periods and which represent women as subservient, and has put together pieces celebrating the strength of the goddesses of the Hindu pantheon. This is still the main element of her performance life, whether at
international festivals or local cultural events, and the warmth and
life with which she imbues these forms keeps her much in demand.