Manipuri dance

Kaberi performing Manipuri dance in mappaneiba dress

Manipuri dance originates from Manipur, a state in north-eastern India on the border with Myanmar (also known as Burma). The traditional Manipuri dance style embodies delicate, lyrical and graceful movements.

The aim is to make rounded movements and avoid any jerks, sharp edges or straight lines. It is this which gives Manipuri dance its undulating and soft appearance. Of course, behind this outwardly soft impression lies a tough regime of body control.

Like the movements of the body and feet, the facial expressions in Manipuri dance should be subtle. The main bases of this dance style are devotion and grace.

Kaberi first learned Manipuri dance from Madhab Mukherjee, who had learned Manipuri dance in Manipur.  She then started to take private dance classes from K Jiten Singh, who had come to Santiniketan from Manipur as a student and then became a Manipuri dance teacher there.

As an undergraduate, she studied Manipuri dance with A Amubi Singh, who had learned Manipuri dance from his father in Manipur and who came to Santiniketan as a Reader in Manipuri dance. She also took Kathakali dance as a subsidiary subject, being taught by T Shankar Narayan, Sadanam Harikumar and TS Vasunni. In addition, she took private Bharatanatyam dance classes with T Shankar Narayan.

From 1993, she started to take special Manipuri theory classes from A Amubi Singh until his death in 1996.  She won the 1994-96 Indian national scholarship for the Manipuri dance known as Ras. Guru Singhajit Singh was one of the examiners. During this period, she was taught Manipuri dance by Y Hemant Kumar Singh and K Sunita Singh. She was invited by Manipuri dancer and choreographer Debjani Chaliha to perform at the Uday Shankar dance festival in Kolkata (Calcutta) in 1996.

Kaberi has been on tour in Japan twice at the invitation of the Mayor of Ujiie as part of a Japan/India cultural exchange in 1999 and in 2001. During her second visit to Japan, she gave a 2-hour workshop for 750 Japanese schoolchildren in Ujiie as well as a workshop for adults at the Indian Embassy in Tokyo. She was also invited to perform in Bangladesh for the Manipuri Sahitya Sangshad in Sylhet and in Dhaka in 2000 and in 2002.

Kaberi has given a number of Manipuri classes to undergraduates and Masters degree level dance students at Sangeet Bhavan, Visva-Bharati University. More recently, she has given solo Manipuri performances in Europe, including at the Purcell Room in London.