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Theatre costume

Theatre costume

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Synthetic fabric, plaited braid, ball buttons

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Trustees of the Ram Gopal Estate

  • Museum number:

    S.116-2004

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Ram Gopal was one of the most important dancers of the 20th century and certainly one of the most exotic theatre performers. He was a major figure in the revival of Indian dance and his spectacular theatrical presentations introduced it to audiences both in Asia and the West. He was proud of the authenticity of his music, costuming and style, shrewdly tailored his presentations to Western audiences, using modern theatrical techniques and spectacular presentation.
This costume of a synthetic fabric woven with a floral design is lined with salmon pink and faced with Prussian blue. It appears to be a house robe, rather than a stage costume, but, as Gopal wore similarly styled costumes on stage, it is impossible to be sure. Gopal was a glamorous figure off stage as well as on and, like most great stars, carefully preserved his image both for public appearances or receiving guests at home.

Physical description

Full-length house robe, with full length loose sleeves and wide neckline, of beige synthetic fabric woven with a floral and foliage design in gold and cream. All edges are bound with a gold and cream plaited braid and the robe fastens from neck to hem with ball buttons and loop buttonholes made of the same braid. The robe is lined with salmon pink synthetic fabric and faced with Prussian blue synthetic fabric.

Materials and Techniques

Synthetic fabric, plaited braid, ball buttons

Dimensions

Length: 138.5 cm, Circumference: 141 cm Waist

Object history note

The costume appears to be a house robe, although Gopal did wear similar costumes on stage.

Historical context note

Ram Gopal (1917-2003) and Uday Shankar, were the most important Indian dancers of the 20th century. Gopal built on Shankar's pioneering revival of Indian dance and its introduction to audiences both in Asia and the West, taking it one stage further. He remained faithful to the pure discipline, technique and ethos of Indian classical. but he also started to open out a deeper appreciation of Indian classical dance traditions, shrewdly tailored to Western audiences, using modern theatrical techniques and spectacular presentation. He widened audiences experiences by including music and other folk and classical styles alongside his own pieces. Each item was preceded by an explanation, enabling audiences to understand and appreciate what was, at that time, a very esoteric art form.
For three decades he was a major world star, with a glamour and charisma equal to any other major dance star of the period. He not only raised public awareness of the richness of Indian dance but worked with dancers trained in other dance forms, like Alicia Markova, thus setting a precedent in Britain for the current thriving and creative South Asian dance scene, which mixes classical Indian dance with other contemporary and classical dance styles to create something uniquely itself.
Each of Gopal's costumes was hand made and tailored to his own design. He spent huge sums on his costumes, which could be insured for as much as £25,000. Some were made of cloth of gold, woven and tailored in India; when it became worn, it was sent back to India, melted down and rewoven.

Descriptive line

Robe worn by Ram Gopal.

Materials

Synthetic fabric; Braid; Brass

Techniques

Machine stitching

Collection

Theatre and Performance Collection

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