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 performance-dates of the Menaka-Ballet in Europe and India.


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

Religious Entanglements Between Germans and Indians, 1800-1945; edited by Isabella Schwaderer and Gerdien Jonker

von Markus Schlaffke

Dance beyond Boundaries: Menaka and the Hanova Sisters

An interview with Karen McKinlay Kurnaedy von Isabella Schwaderer

“A highly successful bit of propaganda.” Performances of Harald Kreutzberg

von Parveen Kanhai
→ All Journal-Articles


Selected finds from the Menaka Archive

Experiments with shapes and sounds (1933-1934)

von Parveen Kanhai

Parallel Paths

von Parveen Kanhai

The Maharani and Mrs. Sokhey

von Parveen Kanhai

E. Narayan Das in the archive of music and gesture

von Parveen Kanhai

“Khurshedbanoo” – a woman lost in the archives

von Parveen Kanhai
→ 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.


Markus Schlaffke (Ph.D)
studied visual communication and fine arts at the Bauhaus University Weimar and works as a documentary filmmaker and media artist. He received his doctorate in the Ph.D. course “Art and Design” at the Bauhaus University Weimar on new strategies for working with archives. Markus Schlaffke examines the traces of the Menaka Ballet in Europe from the perspective of the aesthetics of archives.

Dr. Isabella Schwaderer
Untersucht im Rahmen ihres Habilitationsprojekts Tanz und Religion in der NS-Zeit: Pressestimmen zur Tournee des Indischen Balletts Menaka 1936-38 an der Professur für Allgemeine Religionswissenschaft der Universität Erfurt die populärwissenschaftlichen Diskurse zu Themen rings um Indien, wobei rassentheoretische Anleihen ebenso selbstverständlich aufgenommen werden wie Diskussionen um das Völkische in der Kunst. Weiterhin werden diejenigen Aspekte herausgearbeitet, die sich einfügen in den Kontext Indiens als Projektionsfläche spiritueller Ursprungssuche einerseits und das Transformationspotential ekstatischer Erfahrung in der Kunst andererseits. Auf dieser Grundlage soll eine Einordnung in die religiösen Erneuerungsbewegungen dieser Zeit mit ihren politischen und weltanschaulichen Implikationen unternommen werden.

Parveen Kanhai
studied history at the Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam. During an after her study she was a museum docent and teacher for several cultural institutions. While working in the ethnological museum of Rotterdam, she became interested in the representation of non-European people in the nineteenth century. Within this broad subject she attempts to concentrate on human exhibitions, a subject that has received wide attention in Germany, France and Great Britain. For this purpose she tries to locate photographs, advertisments and newspaper reports in (mainly digital) archives. 

Archive network

The Allard Pierson Collection

The Allard Pierson Collection contains the "Archief impressariaat Ernst Krauss" with relevant documents of the International Concert Directorate Ernst Krauss, which organized the Menaka tour in Europe.


Delpher is the national database for newspapers, books and magazines in the Netherlands. Delpher contains the digitized press review of the Menaka tour in the Netherlands.

Lucknow-Shahjahanpur Gharana Archive

The Lucknow-Shahjahanpur Gharana Archive contains the estate of Ustad Sakhawat Hussein Khan, the orchestra director of the Menaka Ballet.

collecties van de Universiteit van Amsterdam

Stadtarchiv Regensburg, Stadtarchiv Aachen, Stadtarchiv Bielefeld, Stadtarchiv Münster, Stadtarchiv Gelsenkirchen, Stadtarchiv Mönchengladbach, Stadtarchiv Dortmund, Stadtarchiv Wiesbaden, Stadtarchiv Hagen, Stadtmuseum Eschwege, Stadtarchiv Erfurt, Stadtarchiv Chemnitz, Marktarchiv Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Stadtarchiv Köln, Stadtarchiv Münster + Westdeutsche Zeitung, Stadtarchiv Leipzig , Kultur/Stadtarchiv Döbeln, Stadtarchiv Münster, Stadtarchiv Düsseldorf, Stadtarchiv Braunschweig, Stadtarchiv Würzburg, Stadtarchiv Heidelberg, Stadtarchiv Kaiserslautern, Stadtarchiv Koblenz, Stadtarchiv Cobourg, Museum und Archiv Bad Wildbad, Museum/Stadtarchiv Bad Ems, Stadtarchiv Bad Tölz