A retrospective exhibit on the life of the late Contemporary Indian dancer Astad Deboo was a great success, says his sister Gulshan Deboo. Astad Deboo’s family, including his other sister Kamal Antia, nephew Xerxes Antia, who runs 70 Event Media Group, and his wife Neha Mitra, came together to celebrate the artiste’s life through the event. Titled ‘Breaking Boundaries’, the eight-day exhibition began on December 10, his second death anniversary, and concluded on December 17 at the Ballard Estate-set cultural centre IFBE here. (Also read: Astad Deboo’s retrospective exhibit goes beyond the traditional )
“The exhibition was very well executed and displayed at the gallery. A big thank you to everyone who made the exhibition a success. We got an overwhelming response from all those who came to see the exhibition and saw the performances.
“It was a labour of love. It is an emotional journey for all of us starting from Shanoo Bhatia and Gary Grewal with whom he had discussed the idea of having an exhibition before he passed away,” Gulshan Deboo told PTI.
The programme was conceived by the design team at EuMo, led by Bhatia and Grewal and curated by Poulomi Das. Xerxes Antia executed and installed the exhibition, which was co-edited by Mitra. Astad Deboo, renowned for marrying Kathak and Kathakali into a unique form, died at the age of 73 on December 10, 2020 after a brief illness at his home here.
He is noted for creating a modern dance vocabulary that was uniquely Indian. ‘Breaking Boundaries’ covered the variety of dance forms and narratives that the Padma Shri awardee embodied through his work, as well as his associations and contributions to contemporary creative dance.
The exhibition housed installations that chronicled his life, right from his birthplace Navsari in Gujarat, to some remarkable moments such as a performance with English rock band Pink Floyd in London, a commission by legendary French designer Pierre Cardin, choreographing a piece for Maya Plisetskaya, the prima ballerina of the Moscow-based Bolshoi Theatre ballet company.
Also known for his charitable endeavours, Astad Deboo worked with deaf children, both in India and abroad for two decades. In 2002, he founded the Astad Deboo Dance Foundation which provided creative training to marginalised sections, including the differently-abled. He collaborated with the Action Players, a theatre company in Kolkata, and in Chennai with the Clark School for the Deaf.
In 2009, the celebrated dancer performed his production ‘Breaking Boundaries’, also the title of this retrospective, with street children from the NGO Salaam Baalak Trust.
“He kept his work relevant to social causes across the country, created beautiful works and pushed the boundaries of his own craft. He was a mentor to many and extended his personal patronage to his students and associates even after his death,” Gulshan Deboo said.
The exhibition is part of an annual initiative called ‘Thirak’, launched by IFBE for the performing arts and dance, in particular. Every year, ‘Thirak’ celebrates a body of work that has consistently pushed the boundaries of, and celebrated, the spirit of movement. Sarita Vijayan, the program director of IFBE, said they are privileged to present ‘Breaking Boundaries – A retrospective on the life of Astad Deboo’ in their inaugural year.
“Dancers embody both roots and wings. Through this showcase, we want to celebrate the impact of movement. From retrospectives to commissioned work, ‘Thirak’ will bring audiences moving experiences that will both enthral and empower,” added Vijayan.
Astad Deboo’s minimalistic form of dance and use of space in extraordinary ways gained admirers who watched him perform at inspiring locations including the Great Wall of China, Mehrangarh Fort, and the banks of the Narmada.
The Sangeet Natak Akademi Award recipient had learnt Kathak under Prahlad Das and later Kathakali under EK Pannicker, besides studying the Martha Graham dance technique in London and Jose Limon’s technique in New York. He had performed in over 70 countries – solo, in groups and in collaborative performances.
Astad Deboo had also choreographed for films like Vishal Bhardwaj’s “Omkara” (2006) and MF Hussain’s 2004 movie, “Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities”.
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