Manipur lies in the far northeastern corner of India, bordering Burma. The name Manipur means
"jeweled land". Dancing in Manipur is a form of community worship that enhances a close relationship between man and his Creator. A dancer's performance is considered an act of devotion, while the spectators, by identifying themselves with the dancers, feel that they too are privileged to serve the Lord.
The graceful, fluid movements of the body distinguish Manipur dance. The style is one of subdued eloquence. Facial expression is subtle. The ankle bells used in most other Indian classical dance forms are not worn in Manipuri because rhythmic accents are frequently expressed with the body, such as a bend of the knee, rather than always with the foot.
Ras Leela -
The eighteenth century brought Hindu Vaisnavite missionaries from Bengal into the Manipur valley. Out of this devotion to Krishna several dance forms arose, Ras Leela being one of the most developed. Each Ras Leela centers on a particular incident in the life of Krishna and his favorite milkmaid,
Lai Haroba - Lai Haroba is the most important pre-Hindu ritual festival of Manipur. Lai Haroba means entertainment of the gods. There are nearly 400 shrines of different animistic deities and this festival, held in their honor, lasts from a week to a fortnight each spring with the advent of monsoons. The rituals of the Lai Haroba are conducted by the Maibis, priestess-oracles. Maibis are chosen by fate when they exhibit certain psychic signs and fall into trances. Though they may be men or women, they dress as women when they become Maibis. They are then trained in the dances and rituals of the Lai Haroba Festival and learn to prophesy the future through trances. Each evening of this festival begins with several hours of ritual dances by the Maibis, followed by dances offered by other members of the Meitei or Manipuri community.
Kartal Cholom - Eighteenth century Vaisnavism fostered the development of a unique form of Sankirtan in Manipur that expanded to include Cholom dance. Cholom is performed with large cymbals, Kartal, pung drum and song. It is performed as part of all ceremonies and religious festivals in Manipur. While executing various graceful and powerful body movements, the dancer plays the Kartal with intricate rhythms and cross rhythms.
Tang-Ta - Manipuri martial arts with swords and spears, is a strong
yet gracefully sophisticated art.
Singhajit Singh hails from the royal family of Manipur and
directed the Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi Manipuri Ballet
for three decades. A
versatile and dynamic performer, teacher, choreographer and
scholar, he is considered the father of modern Manipuri
main study of Manipuri was with Guru Singhajit Singh between
1973-82 and briefly in 1989.
Ranjani Maibi, was a highly respected Maibi priestess of
the shamanistic Lai Haroba Jagoi tradition and head of the Lai
Haroba Department at the Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur State Dance Academy in
Imphal, Manipur. Sharon
had the opportunity to study Maibi Jagoi with her in Manipur
in 1974 and 1976.
Guru Thangjam Chaoba Singh was head of the Department of
Kartal Cholom, Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur State Dance Academy.
Sharon had the pleasure of studying under this brilliant
performer, teacher and choreographer in 1974 and 1976 when he
organized her performance of Kartal Cholom at the Academy to
demonstrate the possibility of adding Cholom to the curriculum
for female students.
Shrimati Minati Basu Roy trained and performed extensively
in Calcutta and Santiniketan as part of the Basu sisters
Troupe in post independence days. Minati Roy did post graduate study at the University of
Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan and later headed the South Asian
Languages program for the U S State Department in Washington
DC. From 1969-72,
Sharon learned Manipuri from Shrimati Minati Roy and also
performed and taught Manipuri for Indian community and
university functions in Ann Arbor.