Mrinalini Sarabhai

Mrinalini Sarabhai (Obituary)

Indian dance recently mourned the passing of the great dancer, Mrinalini Sarabhai. She was a pioneer Indian classical dancer and choreographer and established Darpana, a dance landmark in Ahmedabad. She was married to famous Indian physicist Vikram Sarabhai. Mrinalini was a trailblazer and like her counterpart Rukmini Arundale of Kalakshetra, she was a modernist in the manner she conceived and created her own works. Her open-minded approach could be attributed to her being raised in Switzerland. Though considered an avant-garde Indian dance-maker of her time, Mrinalini functioned within the idioms of the classical dance styles particularly bharatanatyam and kathakali. The classical styles defined her aesthetics and in this manner, she was a true pioneer modern dancer of India.

Sutra presented Krishna, Love Re-invented at Natarani (Darpana) open-air auditorium in 2014, on invitation by her daughter, choreographer-dancer-actor Mallika Sarabhai, herself a dance-theatre icon in her own right. When I met Mrinalini at Darpana then, she looked exactly the same as when I saw her years before in her house together with dance scholar Dr. Sunil Kothari. I recalled how the late Ram Gopal had spoken about Mrinalini and Kumudhini Lakhia (Kathak), the two great dancers based in Ahmedabad when both had partnered Ram Gopal in the good old days. All three – Ram Gopal, Mrinalini and Kumudhini – are legendary dancers who had impacted the dance world by opening new grounds for future Indian dancers. (The amazing Kumudhini Ben, who is above eighty is still a driving force in Kathak and is one of the great and inspiring teachers of our time.) The passion, dedication and contribution of the late Mrinalini Sarabhai have earned her a distinctive place in the colourful tapestry of Indian dance where she has created a unique legacy of her own. Mrinalini has lived her life to the full and we cherish and pay homage to her memory.
Ramli Ibrahim