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Gina Lalli

Obituary for Gina Lalli

July 14, 1929 - February 16, 2019
Austin, Texas | Age 89


The Life of Gina Lalli
July 14, 1929 to Feb. 16, 2019

Gina Lalli passed away peacefully on the morning of February 16th at Dell Seton Hospital. She was 89 years old. She was the second daughter of Italian immigrant parents, Loretta Colarooco and Didimo Lalli in Binghamton, NY. Her parents later divorced and although she and her sister, Irene, grew up without much, Gina was encouraged by her artistically inclined mother to learn piano, which she loved to play. After seeing her first musical at the age of eight and then a Fred Astaire movie, Gina developed a love of dance and began studying tap when her mother enrolled her in classes given by an old Vaudeville duo in Binghamton. She studied for about a year but later gave it up for other forms of dance.

As a young adult, Gina moved to New York City and continued what would be a lifetime of learning. She studied modern dance under Drid Williams, with whom her friendship continued for a lifetime. While in Manhattan, she became a yoga student of Swami Vishnudevananda through whom she met Swami Chidananda, sparking a lifelong spiritual quest in her. And after seeing a performance by the Uday Shankar Dance Company, she became fascinated with Indian classical dance. From 1952 she studied Bharata Natyam with Nala Najan in NYC for two years. She spent two summers studying Sanskrit at the University of Philadelphia.

Over the course of sixteen years from 1954 to 1970, Gina spent up to eighteen months at a stretch in India during her four trips to study two completely different classical styles of dance; Kathak, from the North and Bharata Natyam, from the South. During these lengthy stays, she studied Kathak with the likes of Padma Bhushan, comma Pandit Birju Maharaj and Vikram Singh. Her Bharata Natyam gurus include the illustrious Pandanallur Chokkilingam Pillai and Swarna Saraswati. She was able to tour her Indian dance repertoire in Bombay (Mumbai), Delhi, and Calcutta (Kolkatta) to much acclaim. Alongside her dance training, she learned basics of the percussion instrument tabla and stringed lute, veena. And continuing her yoga and spiritual journey, she studied under Swami Muktananda at his ashram in Ganesh Puri. In between her trips to India, Gina continued Ballet, Modern, Mime, and Therapeutic Movement up until 1970.

In 1971, on the invitation of a friend, Gina presented a full length Kathak solo performance in the sleepy Texas town of Austin. As she stamped her final rhythmic sequence, the drought-ridden city was quenched with a thunderous downpour. This enigmatic event and delightful audience reaction compelled Gina to move from NYC and make Austin her home. Over the next several decades, Gina would become a central figure in the cultural and artistic landscape of this growing city.

Gina began teaching Indian dance classes at various locations in and outside of Austin. She had regular solo performances in both Bharata Natyam and Kathak at the Capital City Playhouse between 1980 and 1990. She became involved with the local theater scene, designing costumes at Zach Scott and acting in plays at Different Stages. For over ten years she wrote, directed and sometimes performed in numerous plays at the Bastrop Opera House on a regular basis. She was a guest artist in Points of Light (1992) and Bird Where Have You Gone (1993) with Sally Jacques's dance company and performed Garden of Dreams (2003), a Kathak duet with Jose Bustamante of Sharir+Bustamante Danceworks. She performed in Austin Dance India's productions of Women, Voices, and Whispers (2009), Parampara I (2010), and Parampara II (2011) with Anuradha Naimpally.

The Austin Critics inducted Gina into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame in 2003. She also received the Texas Non-Profit Theater Award for her performance in Playhouse Creatures. She kept herself active by serving on the adjudication panel for the City of Austin arts funding. Alongside her artistic activities she also taught classes on Indian spiritual texts like Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras. As a voracious book collector, reader and scholar, she deepened her international impact on Indian dance with numerous articles published in the Journal of Anthropological Studies.

Gina also acted in a few feature films including Richard Linklater's cult classic "Slacker" in 1990.Gina was also in two films by Walter Reuben, "The David Whiting Story" in 2013 in which she played numerous roles including Ayn Rand. The film went on to win the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Independent Film Award. She also appeared in Reuben's "The Big Raincheck" in 2015.

Yet another of Gina's lasting gifts to the world was through her astrological brilliance. She began studying astrology in Manhattan and changed many lives through the deeply insightful readings she gave throughout the years. Trained as a mathematician, she had inherent intuitive skills that she gave to others through astrological guidance. With her sometimes uncanny readings, Gina seemed to have an answer to that conundrum, "If we can remember the past, why can we not remember the future?"

Gina's generous spirit could be seen in her striking presence at any and all arts performances in Austin. With her long black hair and vivid dark eyes, she was recognizable at multiple arts events in the audience as well as on the stage. An avid jazz fan, she could be seen taking in the local music scene at jazz clubs. With dance, theater, or music, whether it was an emerging local artist at a makeshift venue or a celebrity touring artist at a large theater, Gina adored beauty in all its forms. The Austin arts community and her friends far and wide will miss her magnanimous presence immensely. Hers was an enormous and timeless tenure on this earth.

A memorial celebrating Gina's extraordinary life is planned for later this spring.

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3125 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78705
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