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Not currently on display at the V&A

Theatre Costume

Artist/Maker

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 spectacu lar 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 charming body jewel is extremely delicately worked and much of the effect would have been lost on stage. Gopal may have acquired it as part of his reference collection for use by his designers.


object details
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Metal, paste jewels, artificial pearls, turquoise beads
Brief Description
Lozenge shaped clear jewelled motif possibly worn by a member of Ram Gopal's dance company
Physical Description
Lozenge shaped clear jewelled motif linked to smaller triangular motifs by rows of pearls from which hang small clear drop stones each surrounded by tiny pearls finished with a minute turquoise bead. From the apex of the triangular motif hangs a chain, finishing in double drops of red and green stones, from which hang tiny pearls finished with a minute turquoise bead.
Credit line
Given by the Trustees of the Ram Gopal Estate
Object history
The body jewellery 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
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.
Summary
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 spectacu lar 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 charming body jewel is extremely delicately worked and much of the effect would have been lost on stage. Gopal may have acquired it as part of his reference collection for use by his designers.
Collection
Accession Number
S.129-2004

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record createdNovember 3, 2004
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