South Asian Dance began life as The National Academy of Indian Dance, which was established by dancer Tara Rajkumar in London in 1979. The aim of the academy was to raise awareness of, and increase accessibility to, Indian dance as an art form that deserved to be shared and appreciated within contemporary British culture. By the 1970s, as communities of South Asian origin had settled in Britain, Rajkumar felt that there was a need to bring Indian dance, like other South Asian art forms, out of private homes and local community halls, and into the public arena. Herself an internationally renowned performer, Rajkumar is a choreographer and teacher of the ‘Kathakali’ and ‘Mohiniattam’ forms of Indian dance. In 2001, she was awarded the Australian Roll of Honour of Women as part of ‘women shaping the nation’ for her work in arts and culture.
The history of Akademi can be charted into two main periods: the Beginnings, between 1979-1989,which highlight the pioneering activities of the Academy of Indian Dance, and the Present, from 1990 to the present day, which marks a transitional period for the organisation and brings it to its contemporary shape.
Based in London, at its outset in 1979 the Academy of Indian Dance operated from the Commonwealth Institute. It then moved to the October Gallery until the mid-eighties, and in 1986 to the Contemporary Dance Trust at The Place in Euston until 1999. Since its inception, the institution has been concerned with building audiences in the UK for South Asian dance. In its early years, the academy provided evening dance classes and functioned as a touring company, presenting dance-drama productions, which brought dance artistes from all over the UK to perform professionally in a touring production. The Academy of Indian Dance also pioneered the way for thematic conferences and seminars, involving dance, arts and culture professionals from the UK. The conferences created a forum in which to discuss ways to integrate more Indian dance performances into UK public spaces, encourage the growth of Indian dance amongst South Asians in the UK and advance research into Indian dance training needs.