Dancer Ram Gopal first came to the UK to perform in 1939 as a young man. He and his company played to packed houses at the Aldwych and Vaudeville Theatres in London in July and November of that year, having appeared already in Warsaw, Paris and the USA. His performances gained glowing reviews in The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph, Cavalcade and Ballet. The audiences included the leading ballet dancers of the day, Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin, as well as artists Kay Ambrose and Feliks Topolski, who sketched in the wings as Gopal danced.
Pandit Ram Gopal was born in Bangalore, India on 20 November 1912. The son of a Rajput lawyer father and a Burmese mother, Gopal was a natural dancer from an early age. As a young boy, he was mesmerised by the music at a Kathak performance in the local town hall where a troupe was performing. Although his father disapproved, the young Ram Gopal travelled to Kerala to undertake classical training in ‘kathakali’ at the Kerala Kalamandalam School under dance maestro, Guru Vallathol.
Gopal’s first public performance was at a party held by the Yuvaraja of Mysore at the Lalita Mahal, or palace, in front of a thousand guests including the British Viceroy. It was the Yuvaraja who later asked Gopal to join a troupe of classical dancers from Mysore State to tour Europe for the first time.
The performance at the palace marked the beginning of a life dedicated to dance. Gopal made an enviable reputation for himself through his god-like appearance and litheness. He replicated the dances of the Hindu gods and performed in local temples, street performances and participated in folk dancing in villages across the state. He had his costumes designed and tailored them in a similar style to those worn by the gods Shiva, Krishna and Vishnu.