Menaka was born in 1942 in Bombay. She is a master of three classical Indian dance styles: bharatanatyam, odissi and kuchipudi. She began studying bharatanatyam at the age of four and, by her mid-twenties, she was also proficient in odissi and kuchipudi.
Audiences received Thakkar’s 1972 Canadian tour with great enthusiasm, which encouraged Thakkar to immigrate to Canada at the height of her solo dance career. Through her performances, educational outreach programs and dance school, Thakkar is one of the first artists to introduce Classical Indian dance to Canada.
In 1978, Thakkar opened Nrytakala: The Canadian Academy of Indian Dance, with the goals of providing training and building awareness of Indian arts and culture in Canada. She has toured widely in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Southeast Asia.
As a choreographer, Thakkar has worked with modern dance and ballet companies to create contemporary fusion works that combine elements of Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kalariapayattu forms of dance.
The Walter Carsen Prize recognizes artistic excellence and distinguished career achievement by Canadian artists who have spent the major part of their career in Canada in dance, theatre or music.
Thakkar has received a Dora Mavor Moore Award nomination, an honorary doctorate from York University and was awarded the Tri-National Creative Residency Award offered by the United States’ National Endowment for the Arts, among other honours. After 40 years in Canada, Thakkar’s company continues to present stirring and acclaimed dances internationally.
Note: Though Menaka received the award due to her Canadian Citizenship, we have included this news in ISeeIndia because of her success in popularizing Indian classical dance in the western country.