Manipur is famous for its rich and vibrant dance styles and martial arts. Dance-drama or ballet is one of the rarest forms of art in this state. The Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy, Imphal, in association with the Anjika Centre for Manipuri Dance and Movement Therapy, organized a dance-drama festival at Rabindra Sadan (Jan 10-12). The J.N.M.D.A. repertory unit is one of the most renowned institutions in Manipuri dance and music. The three-day dance festival opened with an elaborate presentation titled Shakuntala. Choreographed by W. Lokendrajit Singh, the production narrated the story of Kalidasís Abhijnan Shakuntalam in a colourful manner.
Nature has played an important part in the story of Shakuntala, and this association was brought alive with the help of joyous movements, colourful costumes and choreographic patterns. The presentation resembled a childhood picture book that is rich in colourful illustrations.
The choreographer mixed classical Manipuri dance, Cholom and Manipuri martial art in an intelligent manner. The music was a mixture of pung, pena, sarod, sitar, violin, cello and flute. The diverse instruments helped create the required degree of drama for the different sequences. The music was directed by N. Tiken Singh. With her innocent face and supple movements, G. Chandan Devi presented the character of Shakuntala in a convincing manner. Viswamitra and Durvasa were portrayed by W. Lokendrajit Singh. The group performance of the dance-drama was precise and coordinated. However, the production could have been made shorter to maintain its compact character.
The second day of the festival featured Keibul-Lamjao, a popular dance-drama that was produced by the J.N.M.D.A. This one-hour-long presentation depicted the power and cruelty of man and the helplessness of an animal species in an engaging manner. Significantly, Keibul-Lamjao is the name of a floating sanctuary around the Loktak lake in Manipur and is home to the Sangai, the brow-antlered deer. Choreographed by Th. Chaotombi Singh, this wonderful production created a sense of genuine sympathy in the mind of the audience for these beautiful and harmless animals. The costume was designed by G. Krishnachandra Sharma and the dancers displayed excellent coordination.
Moirang-Sha, a tragic story featuring a royal elephant, was presented by the J.N.M.D.A on the last day of the festival.