Manipuri tradition flourishes

Times Staff Writer

The classical dance idioms of India use energy in ways as distinctive as the regions they come from. One hurls it out from the body like bolts of lightning. Another drives it downward in bursts of rhythm, as if the Earth were an enormous drum. Yet another wreathes the dancers in overlapping swirls of it.

In a program of solos and duets from the northeastern state of Manipur, Wednesday at the Fountain Theater in Hollywood, energy became a kind of sublime spatial decoration, delicately applied with curling fingers, torsos that smoothly dipped and swiveled, feet lightly kicking or hopping. The guiding sensibility remained sweet yet sophisticated, the recurring theme the love between the Hindu deities Krishna and Radha.

Staged to commemorate the founding of Manipuri Dance Visions, a Pasadena training academy, the performance featured Sohini Ray and Sucharita Sharma, women who appeared in contrasting male and female roles.

In the duet "Krishnaroopvarnan," you could see Ray (in pantaloons) raising a knee higher than her partner's as well as venturing vigorous air-turns and hand-claps while Sharma (wearing a dress swathed in a gauzy cape) floated through the step-combinations exuding a supple refinement.

"Sukasari Dwanda" found the pair cast as birds dancing a debate over the relative greatness of Krishna and Radha -- with Sharma's oh-so-discreet expressions of alarm a superb comic complement to the rapid, matched footwork.

Serene and sculptural, Sharma portrayed the young Krishna in "Brahmatal Prabandha," drawing the viewer into the technical details of Manipuri style: the softness of the side-jumps, the pliancy of the shoulders.

Cast as Radha in "Anangakshep," Ray highlighted the art's emotional complexities, her pleading hands propelling her body through intense outbursts of turns in alternating directions that made her seem trapped by her feelings, dancing in circles.

Choreography as well as music (on tape) was credited to the late Bipin Singh, the distinguished descendant of a dynastic line of Manipuri gurus stretching back to 1776.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World