Modern dance pioneer Astad Deboo passes away at 73; know more about his legacy

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By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi |

Updated: December 10, 2020 12:50:31 pm

Deboo defied attempts to pigeonhole his practice. Taking dance beyond the proscenium space and extending the vocabulary to many others, he created collaborators for his work. (Express Photo by Vasant Prabhu)

Indian contemporary dancer Astad Deboo passed away in the early hours of Thursday, in Mumbai. Deboo, 73, trained in Kathak as well as Kathakali and went on to combine the two classical dance forms to create a unique fusion dance form, earning the tag of ‘pioneer of modern dance in India’.

“He left us in the early hours of December 10, at his home in Mumbai, after a brief illness, bravely borne,” the family announced on social media.

“He leaves behind a formidable legacy of unforgettable performances combined with an unswerving dedication to his art, matched only by his huge, loving heart that gained him thousands of friends and a vast, number of admirers,” it read. The announcement said, “The loss to the family, friends, fraternity of dancers, both classical and modern, Indian and international, is inestimable. May he rest in peace. We will miss him.” Deboo is noted for creating a modern dance vocabulary that was uniquely Indian.

Photographer Neelesh Kale told that he was detected with stage four lymphoma or lymph node cancer, and had his last chemotherapy on November 24, 2020. “He shared the news with me after Diwali this year. It happened too fast. I was planning to come to Mumbai this week and spend time with him,” mentioned Kale, over a call from Mumbai, where his last rites and prayer meeting was held.

His innovative style stemmed from the fact that while the Indian audience saw his style as “too Western”, Westerners thought it “wasn’t Indian enough”. Born in Gujarat’s Navsari town on July 13, 1947, he learned Kathak from Guru Prahlad Das and Kathakali with Guru E K Pannicker. In his own words, his style was “contemporary in vocabulary and traditional in restraint”, reported PTI.

“He has created a dance-theatre style which successfully assimilates Indian and Western techniques,” reads the citation for the Sangeet Natak Akademi award he received in 1995 for his contribution to contemporary creative dance. He was also conferred Padma Shri in 2007.

In a career spanning 50 years, he performed solo, and in groups in over 70 countries.

A host of celebrities from various fields took to social media to express their condolences.

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