Astad Deboo (आस्ताद देबू; born 1947) is an Indian contemporary dancer and choreographer, who employs his training in Indian classical dance forms of Kathak as well as Kathakali to create a dance form that is unique to him, and has become a pioneer of modern dance in India. Throughout his long and illustrious career, he has worked with various prominent performers such as Pina Bausch, Alison Becker Chase and Pink Floyd, and performed in many parts of the world He has been awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1996 and Padma Shri in 2007, awarded by the Government of India.
Early life and education
Astad Deboo was born in Navsari, though he grew up in Kolkata till the age of six years. Thereafter the family shifted to Jamshedpur, where his father was employed with Tata Steel. His mother was a homemaker, and he has two sisters, Kamal and Gulshan.
At the age of six, he started learning the Kathak dance form, from the late Indra Kumar Mohanty and the late Prahlad Das. He studied at Loyola School, Jamshedpur, from where he passed out in 1964, after which he moved to Mumbai and joined a B. Com. degree course at Podar College, University of Mumbai. While pursuing his degree here, he happened to see the contemporary dance of the American Murray Louis Dance Company, this changed the course of his life irrevocably. Shortly afterwards, Uttara Asha Coorlawala who was studying dance in New York, visited Bombay, and later helped Astad get admitted to Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance. Deboo left Bombay in 1969, on board a cargo boat that set sail from Bombay port, and later hitchhiked his way through Europe to eventually reach New York in 1974.
Over the next decade, he went on to attend the London School of Contemporary Dance where he learnt Martha Graham's modern dance technique and thereon, when on to learn José Limón's technique in New York. He also trained with Pina Bausch in the Wuppertal Dance Company, Germany and with Alison Becker Chase of the Pilobolus Dance Company, and travelled through Europe, Americas, Japan and Indonesia. On his return in 1977, he studied Kathakali, under Guru E. Krishna Panikar, in Thiruvalla, Kerala, where he eventually performed at the famous Guruvayur Temple. All these explorations lead to the creation a dance style unique to him, an amalgamation of Indian classical dance and western group dance techniques.
A turning point in his career came in 1986, when Pierre Cardin commissioned him to choreograph for Maya Plisetskaya, the prime ballerina of the Bolshoi Theater ballet company. Over the years he has collaborated with various people, including, Pink Floyd at the Chelsea Town Hall in London, the Gundecha Brothers, Pina Bausch of the Wuppertal Dance Company, Germany and the Thang-Ta – the martial art and Pung cholom dancers of Manipur. He has also worked for several years, with Tim McCarthy at the Gallaudet University for the deaf performing arts program in Washington, and the production "Road Signs" toured India in 1995, with a troupe drawn from Gallaudet and Deboo's Indian students.
In January 2005, he along with a troupe of 12 young women with hearing impairment, from the Clarke School for the Deaf, Chennai and part of the Deboos Astad Deboo Dance Foundation, performed at the 20th Annual Deaf Olympics, at Melbourne, Australia. He has also choreographed the 2004 Hindi film, by painter M.F. Hussain, Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities. In 2009, he performed his production, 'Breaking Boundaries' with fourteen street children from the NGO Salaam Baalak Trust. These children had trained with his troupe for six months