In Sujata Prasad, danseuse Sonal Mansingh has found her dream biographer. There is so much empathy between author and subject that the writer moves comfortably between dance, music, choreography, spirituality, culture, heritage, Sonal’s startling artistic innovation and her turbulent private life. Sonal’s own voice comes through with clarity and in telling excerpts of interviews that end many of the chapters. This is a work for anyone interested in the renaissance in the performing arts that has been nurtured and promoted in independent India. It makes one proud to be an Indian.
Sonal’s commitment to dance is the running theme of her life. A poignant moment comes when Sonal, her whole body trussed in a heavy plaster cast after a car accident that almost took her life when she was but thirty, lies abed immobile: “I felt as brittle as a glass doll. I could move only my fingers and eyes. I went through all the hasta mudras...did eye exercises like a Kathakali dancer and recreated the accident and the ensuing events with just those gestures and eye movements.... The hours were more profitably spent going through my repertory of Bharatanatyam and Odissi.”
Her recovery was not just a surgical miracle; it was an act of implacable will. In the immediate wake of the accident in Germany, her German surgeons had given her a blunt choice: either the insertion of a steel rod to hold up her spine or a heavy plaster cast to allow nature to heal her body. “Impetuously, she chose the latter option.”
She was flown to Montreal to the attention of a world-renowned Canadian chiropractor, Dr. Pierre Gravel, also an aficionado of Indian dance who had been bewitched at a lec-dem she had given earlier in the city. “Sonal could not bend or lift even her toe without wolf-howls.” Yet, he...