The Indian Ballett Menaka in Europe 1936–38

Echoes of India’s Dance Modernism in Europe

The Menaka-Archive traces the performances of Indian dancer and choreographer Leila Roy-Sokhey aka „Madame Menaka“ and her Indian Ballett in Europe from 1936 to 1938. Leila Roy-Sokhey (1899-1947), a pioneer of modern dance and a proponent of the preservation of classical Indian performance heritage, went on a three year tour to Europe from 1936 to 1938. She was among the first artists from India to present their work to a wide audience in Europe. The Menaka Archive collects documents of her performances and reconstructs the contours of dance-modernism between India and Europe.



Linked archival holdings in the Menaka-Archive's database


The Menaka-tour documents on an interactive map.


The archive holdings sorted chronologically based on the aproximately 750 performance-dates of the Menaka-Ballet in Europe.


The Menaka tour from the perspective of the participating artists


Reconstructions of the Menaka-Ballett program and repertoire.

Press Reviews

The performances of the Indian Ballet in the press review.

All Documents

The overview of all documents held by the Menaka-Archive.


Research, perspectives and updates to the context of the archive inventory

(Re-)connecting embodied archives. Künstlerische Forschung im Zinda Naach-Kollektiv

von Isabella Schwaderer

1931-1932 Menaka & Nilkanta

Traces of Menakas first appearances in Europe von Parveen Kanhai

Historische Perspektiven der indischen Tanz-Moderne

Feldforschung in Delhi, Kolkata und Chennai von Markus Schlaffke
→ All Journal-Articles


Selected finds from the Menaka Archive

Shared Spirits of Poetry and Nation

von Parveen Kanhai


von Parveen Kanhai

Mr. Charles B. Cochrans’s next Revue

von Parveen Kanhai

When Flowers speak

von Markus Schlaffke

On Indian Dance and the German Quest of Religion in Art

von Isabella Schwaderer
→ All Notes


The Menaka Archive is an association of several research projects, exploring the performances of Indian choreographer and dancer Leila Roy-Sokhey alias “Menaka” with her “Indian Ballet” in Germany and Europe from 1936-38. As part of the Menaka project, archival materials, their collection process, as well as artistic elaborations, are correlated and made accessible as linked open data ressources.

So far, neither a Menaka archive nor a private estate existed. Leila Roy-Sokhey died childless in 1947 – the year of India’s independence and partition. Menaka’s contribution to a dance-like modernity, that was interwoven between Asia and Europe, was therefore largely forgotten and is only recently being rediscovered in Indian dance research. From today’s perspective, Menaka’s tour in Europe therefore represents an archive in it’s own right. It documents materials and structures that complete the picture of an internationally intertwined dance modernity. Nevertheless, the traces of Menaka’s tour in Europe are fragmented. The fragmentation and incompleteness of the material situation makes the historiographic reconstruction of Menaka’s project the subject of critical archive work.

The Menaka Archive sees itself as a collaborative platform for researching and reconstructing a specific history of artistic modernity, written jointly by dancers and musicians in India as well as in Germany. The aim of the archive is to find and secure previously unknown original sources, as well as to register and arrange the already archived tracks and documents of performances.
The digital database provides a foundation to contour the Indian artists performances as a subject of research.
It offers a platform to collect and present heterogeneous material such as newspaper articles, music and film recordings, concert recordings and interviews. In addition, The Menaka Archive curates its holdings using different approaches of visual storytelling. Thus The Menaka Archive also reveals its production logic, gaps and it’s special archival aesthetics.