Classical Dance of India

Manipuri is the classical dance from the Manipur region in the north-east. Manipuri is different in many ways from the other dance forms in India. The body moves with slow, sinuous grace and the undulating arm movements flow into the fingers. The dance form evolved in the 18th century with the advent of the Vaishnava faith, from earlier ritual and magical dance forms. Themes from the Vishnu Purana, Bhagvata Purana and compositions from the Gitagovinda predominate the repertoire.

According to the legends of the Meitei tribes of Manipur, when God created Earth, it was lumpy. The seven Lainoorahs danced on this newly-formed sphere, pressing gently with their feet to make it firm and smooth. This is the origin of Meitei Jagoi. To this day, when Manipuri people dance, they do not stamp vigorously but press their feet gently and delicately on the ground. The original myths and stories are still practiced by the cultist Maibis, or Meitei priestesses in the form (Maibi) that is the root of Manipuri.

The female 'Rasa' dances, based on the Radha-Krishna theme, feature group ballets and solos. The male 'Sankirtana' dances, performed to the pulsating rhythm of the Manipuri dholak are full of vitality.

The musical forms of Manipuri dance reflect the culture of the state of Manipur. The art form primarily depicts episodes from the life of Vishnu and is paradoxically a most tender and vigorous form of expression. Balance and a restraint of power are the predominant features of this style.

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