Anna Pavlova and Uday Shankar

Anna Pavlova and Uday Shankar

The famous ballerina Anna Pavlova visited India in 1922. Seeing Indian dances and paintings for the first time, she was inspired to produce a work with an Indian theme. To ensure authenticity, she wanted to learn from a dancer in the Indian tradition. She was introduced to a young painting student who had studied at the Royal College of Art, Uday Shankar. Having seen him dance, Pavlova asked him to choreograph and appear in two of the sections which would make up the ballet. Together they created Oriental Impressions, which was premiered at Covent Garden in 1923. This was a mixture of Eastern and Western traditions - an Indian composer wrote a score for a Western orchestra, and Shankar adapted his Indian style to suit Pavlova's company. The costumes were based on artefacts in the V&A Museum and made out of fabrics that Pavlova had brought back from India.