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Theatre costume

Theatre costume

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Braid, gold thread, paste (glass), metal

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Trustees of the Ram Gopal Estate

  • Museum number:


  • 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.
Besides a mass of exotic costumes, Gopal also had a large collection of stage jewellery and accessories, which he, or other members of his company, would have worn in many different dances. His stage jewellery included both 'real' items and others remade in the style of the originals but translated into theatrical terms, using imaginative materials. This belt is a mix of the two methods - instead of metal, the basis of the belt is a white and gold braid, stitched with elaborate metal lozenges, trimmed with jewels.

Physical description

White and gold braid edged with gold, onto which, at the left end, is stitched an elaborate jewelled band of lozenges of clear small jewels set with alternating red and green jewels, with central large circular motif of similar jewels with raised central lozenge set with oval green cabuchon jewel surrounded by clear jewels; from the lower edge of the central motif hangs a smaller round jewelled motif.

Materials and Techniques

Braid, gold thread, paste (glass), metal

Object history note

The belt was part of Ram Gopal's estate and would have been worn by him, or one of his dancers, in performance. It was probably part of a general collection of jewellery, worn in several different dances.

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

Belt possibly worn by Ram Gopal.


Braid; Gold thread; Paste (glass); Metal




Theatre and Performance Collection

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