MANIPURI DANCE : Manipuri, one of the main styles of Indian Art or Classical Dances originated in the picturesque and secluded state of Manipur in the north-eastern corner of India. The dance in Manipur is associated with rituals and traditional festivals, there are legendary references to the dances of Shiva and Parvati and other gods and goddesses who created the universe. Lai Haraoba is one of the main festivals still performed in Manipur which has its roots in the pre-Vaishnavite period. Lai Haraoba is the earliest form of dance which forms the basis of all stylised dances in Manipur. Literally meaning - the merrymaking of the gods, it is performed as a ceremonial offering of song and dance. The principal performers are the maibas and maibis (priests and priestesses) who re-enact the theme of the creation of the world. Manipur dance has a large repertoire, however, the most popular forms are the Ras, the Sankirtanaand the Thang-Ta. There are five principal Ras dances of which four are linked with specific seasons, while the fifth can be presented at any time of the year. In Manipuri Ras, the main characters are Radha, Krishna and the gopis. The themes often depict the pangs of separation of the gopis and Radha from Krishna. The parengs or pure dance sequences performed in the Rasleela dances follow the specific rhythmic patterns and body movements, which are traditionally handed down. The Ras costume consists of a richly embroidered stiff skirt which extends to the feet. A short fine white muslin skirt is worn over it. A dark coloured velvet blouse covers the upper part of the body and a traditional white veil is worn over a special hair-do which falls gracefully over the face. Krishna wears a yellow dhoti, a dark velvet jacket and a crown of peacock feathers. The jewellery is very delicate and the designs are unique to the region. Manipuri dance incorporates both the tandava and lasya and ranges from the most vigorous masculine to the subdued and graceful feminine. Generally known for its lyrical and graceful movements, Manipuri dance has an elusive quality. The facial expressions are natural and not exaggerated -sarvangabhinaya, or the use of the whole body to convey a certain rasa, is its forte. Manipuri dance and music has a highly evolved tala system. The Manipuri classical style of singing is called Nat - very different from both north and south Indian music. This style is immediately recognizable with its high pitched open throated rendering with particular type of trills and modulations. The main musical instrument is the Pung or the Manipuri classical drum.

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