Dance Pioneer Astad Deboo Passes Away, Tributes Pour In

Mumbai: Dance pioneer Astad Deboo breathed his last in the early hours of Thursday at his residence in Mumbai. He was 73.

“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 said.

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.

Born on July 13, 1947 in Navsari town of Gujarat, the dancer, who studied Kathak with Guru Prahlad Das from a young age, and later Kathakali with Guru E K Pannicker, described his style as “contemporary in vocabulary and traditional in restraint.” With a dance career spanning half a century, he had performed in over 70 countries, including solo, group and collaborative choreography with artistes, at home and abroad.

Known for his charitable endeavours, Deboo worked with deaf children, both in India and abroad for two decades. In 2002, he founded the Astad Deboo Dance Foundation which provided creative training to marginalised sections, including the differently-abled.

Deboo also forayed into other art disciplines, like films, choreographing for directors such as Mani Ratnam, Vishal Bhardwaj and legendary painter M F Hussain’s ‘Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities’.

Several netizens on Twitter mourned the demise of the dance maestro and took to social media to pen evocative tributes for Deboo.

“I remember watching him in the early 1980s, marveling at his creativity and energy, which he deepened and carried into his 70s,” wrote economist Vijayendra Rao.

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Historian S Irfan Habib also expressed his disappointment on Deboo’s demise.

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