Soft and flowing
EXPRESSIVESuman Saraugi was an artistic and aesthetic delight
Manipuri dance, the dance of the North Eastern State of India, Manipur, is mostly lasya oriented. It is one of the most beautiful dance styles of India. Nurtured in the mountainous region of the northeast, no wonder then, that the dance is an inherent part of the rituals of daily life, such as weddings and homage to ancestors.
The Lai Haroba, a ritualistic dance depicting the Creation, is considered the precursor of Manipuri as seen today. The Lai Haroba is still an important living tradition, while Manipuri has expanded and gained popularity as a performing art in group and solo presentations.
Among the important constituents of the Manipuri repertoire are the Sankirtana and the Raas Leela, based on the devotional theme of Krishna and Radha. The Raas Leela depicts the cosmic dance of Krishna and the cowherd maidens. The beautiful embroidered skirts of the dancers, long and flared from the waist, and the translucent veils, along with Krishna's costume with the tall peacock feather crown, add to the radiant appearance of this dance, as the performers sway and twirl to an ascending tempo.
The body movements involved are soft and flowing, requiring tremendous inner muscle control. The movement of the limbs and the torso often represents the figure of eight. Unlike other Indian dance forms that adopt more open and squat positions, Manipuri is characterised by a more compact stance. In Manipuri, hand movements are used decoratively rather than symbolically. The entire body becomes an instrument of expression in Manipuri, which is not restricted merely to facial expressions. Most performances revolve around the theme of Raas and depict the innumerable escapades of Lord Krishna.
There is a characteristic style of music for Manipuri dance. The music is generally similar to the larger body of the Hindustani music. However, there are differences in nomenclature of ragas, talas and the style of presentation is somewhat different.
Manipuri is unique among the classical Indian dances in that the instrumentation is a central part of the dance, rather than as an accompaniment. Dances are based upon the cymbals (kartal or manjira) and the cylindrical drum known as Manipuri mridang or pung. Unlike other classical dances where the instrument is merely used as an accompaniment, the pung and the kartal (manjira) are actually used in the dance. Other common instruments are the harmonium, pena, bansuri, shankh (conch), and esraj. The songs used in Manipuri are usually from the great poets such as Jayadeva, Vidyapati, Chandidas, Govindadas or Gyandas.
I enjoyed every bit of a Manipuri dance performance by Suman Saraugi at the Yavanika in the Every Friday Cultural Evening Programmes series. Dressed in typical Manipuri dance style she danced to fine recorded music. She glided over the stage, creating an aesthetic and artistic delight. The rendition of Dashavataras on the basis of Jayadeva's Asthapadi "Jaya Jagadeesha Hare" was highly classical. "Krishna-Rathi Vilas" with the Radha-Krishna theme and rendition of a few excerpts (Sharad-Hemanth, Raas) from the ashtapadis brought out the artistic abilities of Suman. Nevertheless there were a good number of repetitions in her movements.
M. SURYA PRASAD
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