dances originate from the North Eastern state of Manipur and derives its
name from its native state. Intensely devotional in mood, the Manipuri
dances are a part of the daily life of the Manipuri people. Essentially
presented as a group dance with gorgeous, colourful costumes and gentle,
swaying petal-soft movements, Manipuri dances create a hypnotic impact.
The dances are influenced by the religious movement of Vaishnavism, the
worship of Lord Vishnu, and have flowered in exquisite Rasalila performances,
the favourite dance in a circle by Krishna with his milkmaids. Various
types of Rasalilas are performed on special occasions and festivals.
Rasalilas, there are other dances called Natasankirtana, in which a group
of men play cymbals and dance in a circle or in two rows singing praises
of God. In Pung Cholom, the dancers play upon pung, the drum, and dance
while playing the intricate time cycles, executing somersaults and breathtaking
acrobatic feats. In group dances like Lai Haraoba, the merry-making for
the gods, the dancers perform various steps and weave patterns, involving
various choreographic compositions. From the corpus of Manipuri dances,
one sees on the contemporary stage solo, duet and group performances. The
music is typical of the region and is influenced by the kirtan school of
Bengal due to the influence of Vaishnavism.
Lai Haraoba, Choloms, Pung Cholom, Natasankirtana, Khubak Ishai and other
Manipuri dances share both nritta and nritya aspects and are edited judiciously
for the concert platform to suit the urban audience. However, to enjoy
Manipuri, one should see the dances in their natural setting. Gossamer
veils, cylindrical mirrored skirts and ornaments dazzle the audiences with
their colourful costumes which create a dream-like effect.