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Noted danseuse and Padma Bhushan recipient Mrinalini Sarabhai passed away today morning in Ahmedabad. She was an Indian classical dancer, choreographer and instructor. The universe of Indian dance lost probably its last diva, says renowed Bharatnatyam dancer Geeta Chandran. Mrinalini Sarabhaiwas 97.

Mrinalini was born in Kerala on 11 May 1918, the daughter of social worker and former parliament member Ammu Swaminathan. She spent her childhood in Switzerland, where, she received her first lessons in the Dalcroze school, a Western technique of dance movements.

She was educated at Shantiniketan under the guidance of Rabindranath Tagore where she realised her true calling.

She then went  to the United States where she enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

On returning to India, she began her training in the south Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam under Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai and the classical dance-drama of Kathakali under the legendary Guru Thakazhi Kunchu Kurup.

Mrinalini Sarabhai’s first performance that toured internationally, ‘Manushya’ portrayed the different stages of a person’s life along with the cycle of life and death. . The performers from (left to right) are: Bhaskar Menon, Mrinalini Sarabhai, Chathunni Panicker, Darshini Shah, Rupande Shah, Minal Mahadevia – (Courtesy: Instagram/Darpana Academy)

Mrinalini married the Indian physicist Dr. Vikram Sarabhai who is considered to be the Father of the Indian Space Program in 1942.

“My mother just left for her eternal dance,” her daughter, leading danseuse, actor and activist Mallika Sarabhai, said in a Facebook post announcing the death.

Amma was the founder of the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts, an institute for imparting training in dance, drama, music and puppetry, in the city of Ahmedabad

She is survived by daughter Mallika and son Kartikey, founder of Ahmedabad-based Centre for Environment Education (CEE).

Her autobiography is titled Mrinalini Sarabhai: The Voice of the Heart.

Vandana Kumar

Vandana Kumar is a publishing executive with a 35-year track record in the industry. She leads the India Currents Foundation as President and CEO. As a new immigrant, she co-founded India Currents magazine...