In the 1930s, the reputation of Indian classical dance had sunk to such a low that for a woman of a respectable family to perform in public was enough to create a scandal. Today, training in classical dance is considered a desirable social grace for girls, and many of them who try to develop a career in dance, find the competition daunting. Mrinalini Sarabhai's career spanned this social change in attitudes to dance. She exemplified the respectable art it became, and helped to create the favourable view in which it is held today.
Mrinalini Sarabhai (1918–2016) who was also a choreographer, performed in forty countries, “making India [come] alive and beautiful”. With her husband, the physicist Vikram Sarabhai, Mrinalini established the well-known Darpana Academy of the Performing Arts in Ahmedabad, the city she made her home. Mrinalini, her daughter Mallika, and the Darpana troupe pioneered the use of classical techniques to interrogate and engage with social themes. This remarkable and multi-faceted woman, who was ‘Born to Dance’, and who used her talents in many innovative ways, is the focus of this book.
Harriet Ronken Lynton (1920–2018) knew Mrinalini Sarabhai and her family for close to forty years. This knowledge of, and friendship with, Mrinalini enabled Lynton to gain a deep and nuanced understanding of the dancer and the various forms of classical Indian dance she used in her many performances.
Lynton went to Radcliffe where she graduated magna cum laude. She went on to become a member of the faculty of the Harvard Business School even before it admitted women. She authored several books in her field of organizational behaviour. Lynton lived in India for almost twenty years and wrote two books on Hyderabad, The Days of the Beloved (with Mohini Rajan) and My Dear Nawab Saheb. She also wrote novels and a memoir.