“Dance is a song of the body. Either of joy or pain.” – Martha Grayham

Manipuri is a dance from Manipur, on the north-eastern frontier of India. The tradition of dance belongs largely to the community of people called Meiteis who trace their origin to the Vedic times and were well-versed in innumerable ritualistic dances.

During the 18th century Vaishnavism as a spiritual philosophy was born in India and came to Manipur.. The evolution of present day Manipuri dance and repertoire is a synthesis of the traditional ritualistic dances dedicated to Lord Shiva and the Vaishnava belief of devotion.

The repertoire therefore, is divided into Meitei dances like Lai-haroba and Khamba Thoibi and Vaishnav inspired dances like Raas (pure and expressional dance based on the eternal love story of Radha and Krishna) and Bhangi Pareng. The modern day repertoire also includes martial dance Thang-Ta (the dance of sword and spear) and Pung Cholam (where dancers play and dance with the percussion instrument with vigorous acrobatic leaps and spiral turns).

Manipuri is marked by the fluid grace of the total body. The feet are barely lifted off the ground and are hardly visible beneath the unique skirt. The knees are kept close together and bent sideways for poses and there is simultaneous deflection at the waist. Few gentle hand gestures and rolling or swinging head movements ornate the dance.