Modern Dance in India has a relatively short history. Since the perception of 'modern' or 'contemporary' can vary from dancer to dancer, this dance form cannot be defined as easily as the classical dance styles of India. It is also not codified in a detailed manner, as are the classical styles.
Uday Shankar (1900-1977), elder brother of Pandit Ravi Shankar, is widely accepted as the
Father of Modern Dance in India. He was instrumental in bringing the Indian dance on the world map. This great dancer had a very wide vision, and he appreciated the wonderful variety and scope of expression afforded by the different classical and folk dances existing in this country. He traveled widely between 1929 and 1938 and introduced audiences in the West to Indian dance and music through the performances of his troupe, the ‘Hindu Dancers’. In 1923 he choreographed two Indian ballets,
Krishna and Radha and A Hindu Wedding.
In 1931 he presented the Tandava Nritya at the Theatre Champs-Elysées in Paris. Some of Uday Shankar's famous works include the innovative ballet,
Labour and Machinery and a path breaking film, Kalpana, on the theme of dance. Uday Shankar's daughter Mamata Shankar is not only keeping his unique style of ballet alive but also focusing on contemporary issues like peace, love for humanity and conservation of environment. Her
Mamata Shankar Ballet Troupe has given performances in several countries abroad including USA, UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Norway, China, Japan, Greece and Egypt in the past two decades.
Today, in addition to the line established by Uday Shankar, there are other practitioners of Modern Dance in India who belong to other schools. The
Tagore School of Dance is one such school where ballets are choreographed in a new style by taking the best elements from many classical dances. Some of the most well known dance-ballets of this school are the
Natir Puja, Tasher Desh, Chandalika and Chitrangada. Mrilani Sarabai, wife of Dr Vikram Sarabhai, is another renowned classical dancer who has introduced experimentation in Indian dance. Her ballets like
Manushaya, Rig-Veda and Matsya-Kanya have gained immense popularity.