India on Skis
In February 1938, winter sports guests in St. Moritz were amazed by a group of picturesque skiers. It is the Indian dancer Menaka with the members of her ballet group. As the reporter from the Algemeen Handelsblaad explains to readers in the Netherlands, Menaka is wearing a sari, even in the winter temperatures.
Behind Menaka, one of the three young girls who accompanied Menaka to Europe, is to be seen somewhat uncertain and with a worried look at the unusual sports equipment on her feet. It may be Damayanti Joshi, who was around 13 at the time. Her slender childish figure stands out in this picture and gives an indication of how young the girls were, who performed in Menaka’s ensemble. The male companion with a turban who looks into the camera from the background cannot be identified exactly. It could be one of the two dancers Ramnarayan and Gauri Shankar, as well as one of the six accompanying musicians.
The picture is a snapshot from the last days and weeks of the Indian ballet in Europe. At this point, the company was already on the way back to Trieste and completed the last stages of its tour, which was initially only planned for one year and would then last for almost two and a half years.
The winter sun of 1938 shines on a happy moment, while elsewhere the course of world history is being set. Next to the photo of the Indian Ballet on Skis, the magazine article prints a picture from the Spanish Civil War. It shows the snow-covered icy positions in Aragon, Spain, where the Republican troops suffer a terrible defeat during the Battle of Teruel and cannot stop the further advance of the Francist troops. The German Air Force tests its new war equipment during these battles in the Spanish Civil War. Two days before the Indian ballet posed for the camera in the Swiss mountains, far-reaching decisions regarding the fate of Europe were made in a mountain hut north of the Alps. On February 12, 1938, in Berchtesgarden, Hitler forced the Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg to make concessions to the Austrian National Socialists and thus initiated Austria’s annexation to the German Reich.
The caption says: INDIA ON SKIS. – The members of the well-known British-Indian ballet Menaka, which now performs at St. Moritz, devote themselves to skiing during the day, as do the other guests. However, they do not discard the Eastern clothing under any circumstances!
Algemeen Handelsblaad, February 14, 1938