Her own performances have ranged internationally over a large number of cities and countries over a brilliant fifty-year dancing career. She has toured as a soloist and with her dance company in India, Singapore, England, the U.S, Sweden, and Canada since 1977.
“Menaka Thakkar first came to Canada from India in 1972 as a visiting performing artist. She stayed to become one of Canada’s most influential dancers, choreographers, artistic directors, institution builders and teachers. Thakkar, through Indian Classical dance, was instrumental in laying the groundwork for multiculturalism in the arts.” Paula Citron, The Globe and Mail Newspaper, April 2013
As a choreographer, she has created a large number of original classical, traditional, and contemporary works. She was the first to collaborate with several western choreographers to create a large body of fusion choreography as part of her continuing effort to contribute to the growth of Canadian forms Indian dance.
She is the founder and Artistic Director of the two premiere Canadian institutions of Indian dance. Forty years ago she founded NRTYAKALA, The Canadian Academy of Indian Dance. Five years later, she founded the first professional performance company of Indian dance known as Menaka Thakkar Dance Company or MTDC.
She received an honourary doctorate and was made an Adjunct Professor of Dance at York University in 1974. Besides teaching at York and at her own school she conducts an annual residency in Bharatanatyam to the students at the world-famous National Ballet School of Canada located in Toronto.
She has received many awards and honours from India, the U.S. and Canada including ; The City of Toronto Face the Arts Award, Toronto Arts Award for Performing Arts, from Arts Toronto, President’s Award from Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, Toronto, Nomination for Japan’s Fukuoka Asian Cultural Prize, Choreographic Lab Award from Le Group de la Place Royale, Singar Mani Award, Bombay, India for excellence in Odissi, Ontario Premiere’s award of excellence finalist.
In August 2012 Menaka won the Walter Carsen Prize, which is administered and presented by the Canada Council for the Arts. The Walter Carsen Prize recognizes the highest level of 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.
In April 2013, Menaka was the recipient of the Governor-General’s Performing Arts Award for Life Achievement Dance. In winning these two major awards Menaka became the first artist from a non-western culture to win these awards.
“Menaka Thakkar is a major figure in the Canadian dance landscape,” said Robert Sirman, Canada Council for the Arts Director and CEO. “She has trained with some of the best in India and, for years, has made their teachings accessible to the mainstream in Canada. Her work has truly enriched our collective culture.”
Click HERE for details on a special Tribute evening honouring Dr Menaka Thakkar.