Dance legend, visionary and pioneer Astad Deboo has died at the age of 73.

A recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and the Padma Shri, Deboo transformed the dance scene in the country by creating his unique contemporary style. His death is a huge loss not only to the entire country but to the world of performing arts specifically.

His death was announced on social media by his family in a brief announcement.

“He left us in the early hours of December 10, at his home in Mumbai, after a brief illness, bravely borne. He leaves behind a formidable legacy of unforgettable performances combined with an unswerving dedication to his art, matched only by his huge, loving heart that gained him thousands of friends and a vast, number of admirers,” the announcement read.

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“The loss to the family, friends, fraternity of dancers, both classical and modern, Indian and international, is inestimable. May he rest in peace. We will miss him,” the announcement added.

When Astad Deboo received the Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1995, the citation on it said that he “has created a dance-theatre style which successfully assimilates Indian and Western techniques”. Deboo went on to receive a Padma Shri in 2007.

“He has experimented with a variety of forms, themes, concepts and performance spaces, and has collaborated with other dancers, composers and designers to create innovative works of aesthetic value,” it said. “His works represent an important segment in contemporary dance expression in India.”

Astad Deboo was a revolutionary who experimented with various artistic disciplines.

“My main problem was that there were no dancers who wanted to work with me,” he told Scroll.in in 2018. “Indian classical dancers would come to me in order to start exploring their own language, but they were always afraid of being rusticated by their gurus. So, I turned to other performing arts disciplines – puppetry, thang ta and pung cholom. I liked that they had a vocabulary of movement I could create with.”

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