New Delhi: The Mohan Khokar Dance Collection, one of the largest archival collections of memorabilia on Indian dance with over 300,000 documents, will get a government platform for the first time in 80 years to showcase itself.
A weeklong exposition, "A Century of Indian Dance - 1901-2000" beginning Sunday will present a selection of souvenirs, art works, press clippings, dance accessories owned by the maestros and heritage bronze icons of the deity Nataraja dating to the Chola
period, at the Visual Arts Gallery of the India Habitat Centre.
The exhibition, sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), will be inaugurated by ICCR president Karan Singh. The display will be formally closed by MP Shashi Tharoor July 24.
Hailed as the single largest collection of dance memorabilia, it was built by classical dance maestro Mohan Khokar over some 70 years since 1934. He was the first male student of Rukmini Devi Arundale at the Kalakshetra in Chennai.
After Khokar`s death in 1999, the collection was handed down to his son, Ashish Khokar, an art critic who has been adding to it since then.
The collection is a trove of rare material like brochures of leading dance institutions, handbills, posters, press-clips dating from 1900, letters, memorabilia, books, Ph.D. theses sourced from the writers, paintings, sketches, Chola bronzes and everyday articles related to dance.
The exhibition has been divided into five segments - each of which will be opened by a dignitary.
Karan Singh will inaugurate Nataraja Gallery - a display space dedicated to rare Chola period sculptures of Nataraja, the avatar of Shiva dedicated to dance - with the unlocking of a rare Nataraja lock.
Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, who is the ambassador designate to US, will inaugurate the costume gallery, displaying old dancing attires.
Director-general of ICCR Suresh Goel will release the 200-page catalogue featuring rare photographs, historical and educational material.
Sangeet Natak Akademi chairperson Leela Samson, who has also been named chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification, will inaugurate the Century of Dance gallery while scholar and writer Shanta Serbjeet Singh will open the Dance in Everyday Life gallery.
Sudhakar Rao, the former chief secretary of Karnataka, will felicitate the artists.
Soon after the inauguration, a contingent of classical dancers will showcase the costumes - some belonging to dancers at the beginning of the last century - with live shows.
The exhibition will also screen movies on dance, sourced from the archive, daily for a week.
"I met Ashish Khokar in New York a year ago, soon after I took over as ICCR director-general. He told me how he was trying to bring the collection out to the masses for more than 20 years. I thought it was good work and decided to lend it a platform for display," Suresh Goel told IANS.
He said the collection will travel to Europe and the US after July 24. "Lots of people abroad are interested in Indian dance. And if we need to continue with our future, we have to preserve history," Goel said.
Ashish Khokar said, "My father began collecting dance memorabilia in 1934".
"The collection has nearly 200,000 photographs and documents; and around 100,000 clippings. This is the first time it is getting a government showcase," Ashish Khokar said.
"It is a ready-made collection and I want it to be institutionalised. I want the government to build a museum space to display it. It should build as Mohan Khokar Dance Museum," he added.