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Swaying to the Manipuri rhythm


Beautiful and delicate movements.

ON NOVEMBER 9, Chennai was treated to an evening of delightful Manipuri dances by the Jawaharlal Manipuri Dance Akademi, Imphal at Kalakshetra. The group was led by Guru Thanil Singh, Principal of the Akademi. That there were only students of the Kalakshetra to watch such a visual and aural treat did not deter the performers from giving a presentation of immense beauty and delicacy.

It was an evening of sheer delight. This despite the fact that the announcements were too feeble and heavily Manipuri accented for anyone to understand anything. It is a pity because the explanation would have enhanced understanding.

The programme is a part of a series of exchange programmes undertaken by Kalakshetra under the auspices of the Government of India's Department of Culture. While the Manipuri dancers are here, the Kalakshetra dancers are in Manipur giving the citizens there a taste of the Bharathanatyam.

The programme began with Lai Haroba (literally God's pleasure). This is an ancient dance of Manipur depicting the God's and Men's ways with the world. In the Lai Haroba presented that evening one saw daily routine of the villages beautifully blended into abstract dance. There was the weaving shown in gliding and spinning movements enhanced by dainty and elegant steps.

The figures kept swaying to the music and the arms moved in slow circles and arcs. Each move of the dancer flowed into the next without any noticeable transition, the body merely curving and recurving into different poses and stances. The gentle and undulating movements accompanied by serene facial expressions. The body curved itself into the figure of eight. The positions attained were relaxed and controlled rather than sculpturseque. The figure of eight or the nagabandha mudra is the basic motif in the dance this motif was repeated in body positions and the performing space as the dancers moved constantly tracing the figure of eight. A basic movement was the gradual closing and opening out of fingers with the wrist constantly attempting to execute the Nagabandha Mudhra.

The dances included the very beautiful lasya in the Lai Haroba and the Khamba Thorbi with the Tandava of the Mardala and the Sankirtan which gave glimpses of the very special Tata techniques of Manipuri with the graceful swaying of arms as part of Tala execution and the very tandava of the agile circular movements.

There was of course the fearsome Thang ta with the sword and spear fights that Manipur is so famous.

The speciality here was that it had a woman performer with the Sword and Shield. The Brindavana ras brought an altogether new world of visual beauty with the big skirts and the swaying movements.

The costumes of Manipuri of course are delicate and rich at the same time. The green velvet blouses, the skirts, the sarongs, the unstitched white for the Sankritan and the yellow of Krishna with the beautiful ornaments added to the beauty of the performance. The lighting was special and executed very well. One only wished the acoustics and amplification at Kalakshetra watched the performance. This area needs a professional's attention.

V. R. DEVIKA

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