Renowned Indian classical dancer and academician Dr. Kanak Rele passed away on February 11, 2023, at the age of 77. Dr. Rele was known for her contributions to the field of Mohiniyattam, a classical dance form from Kerala.
Born in Mumbai in 1945, Dr. Rele was trained in Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, and Mohiniyattam from a young age. She later went on to establish the Nalanda Dance Research Centre in Mumbai, which is dedicated to the research and promotion of Indian classical dance forms.
Dr. Rele was a pioneer in the field of Mohiniyattam, which had traditionally been performed exclusively by women from the Nair community in Kerala. She sought to bring the dance form to a wider audience and break down the barriers that had traditionally prevented women from performing it.
Under Dr. Rele’s leadership, the Nalanda Dance Research Centre became a hub for the study and practice of Mohiniyattam. She also wrote several books on the subject and created several new pieces that have become an integral part of the Mohiniyattam repertoire.
Dr. Rele was also a professor of dance at the University of Mumbai and was instrumental in the establishment of the Department of Dance at the university. She was a mentor to many students who went on to become leading figures in the Indian classical dance world.
The news of Dr. Rele’s passing was met with an outpouring of grief and condolences from the dance community and the wider public. Many took to social media to pay tribute to her legacy and express their gratitude for her contributions to Indian classical dance.
One of the leading figures in the Mohiniyattam community, Dr. Methil Devika, said, “Dr. Kanak Rele’s contribution to Mohiniyattam is unparalleled. She was a visionary who worked tirelessly to promote and preserve the dance form. Her legacy will continue to inspire generations of dancers.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also expressed his condolences, tweeting, “Saddened by the demise of Dr. Kanak Rele, a legendary figure in the world of Indian classical dance. She will always be remembered for her immense contribution to the art form and her efforts to promote it across the world.”