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Manipuri dance form, demystified

The session to be held today at the NCPA will not just help dance enthusiasts understand the basics of Manipuri dance but also the taal system of the dance which is distinctly different from the Carnatic and Hindustani system of talas. Renowned Manipuri Guru, Darshana Jhaveri will unravel this taal system which was developed by various gurus, including her own guru, Bipin Singh, as she traces the origins of the dance form from being a temple dance to becoming a stage form through lectures and demonstrations.


Sohini Ray

“Our gurus have done extensive research on the dance form and the oral tradition of Manipur. The Gurus have developed an individual system of talas by taking inspiration from the Vaishnav Sangeet Shastras,” informs 72-year-old Jhaveri.

The lecture demonstration will also include understanding the two parts of Manipuri dance — Lasya (feminine) and the Tandav (masculine). “The different aspects of the dance will be explained in the session along with trying to give the participants an understanding of the origins of the dance,” she explains adding, “Our student Sohini Ray’s multimedia presentation will also help people get a better understanding of the dance.”

Ray, a resident of the US, has been learning Manipuri dance since she was five, and has been doing research on the dance form for 20 years. On December 27, she will be screening some of her documented films followed by connected dance performances.

“I was in Kokata when I began learning the dance form. I moved to the US in 1992 to do my MA in Dance from the University of California. When I went there, I realised barely anyone knew about Manipur or Manipuri dance,” she says. “I was always curious about how the dance in its current form emerged, and I decided to document the traditional Manipuri dance form, which is still performed in the temples of Manipur. I visited Manipur regularly and started to document the form in 1994. Today, I have about 80 hours of footage,” adds the 46-year-old dancer.

In the multimedia production, titled Bhaktirasgi Mangal-Khonjel: Sounds and Lights of Devotion, she will be screening a footage followed by a connected dance item, so people can understand how the item evolved from a certain tradition. “This is the first time this production is being performed in India as I felt people need to be educated in the traditional form,” says Ray. She hopes to get some form of help to make such films, so that people can learn more about the traditional
dance form.

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