Manipur has won recognition through the matchless grace of its dance technique, Manipuri Dancing. Manipur in the north –east corner of India has evolved a unique pattern of life. It is unique in the sense that there is a perfect blending of music and dance with the day to day life of the people.
Though its past is lost in dim antiquity many legends and myths are woven around Manipur and its dancing. The nature of Manipuri Dancing is classical, traditional and scientific. The analysis and classification of various dance movements and forms faithfully adhere to the basic laws of anatomy, psychology and aesthetics.
Manipur has passed on from generation to generation this noble heritage of dancing, in its pure and original form. There is no occasion in the social or religious life of Manipur, which is not celebrated by an appropriate and characteristic dance. Vaishnavite religious themes and particularly the life story and divine love of Radha and Krishna pervade most of these social and religious festivals.
The distinguishing trait of Manipuri is an expression entirely through body movements. A delicate balance is achieved between movements of the different parts of the body, rejecting emphasis on any one part. Dramatic potentialities and a variety of types and forms of Manipuri Dancing are skillfully exploited in their numerous dance dramas.
Rasleelas and Sankirtan are the highly developed aesthetic forms revealing the religious feelings of the people of Manipur. Rasleelas go on for 8 to 10 hours in the temple courtyard from dusk to dawn. The religious people of Manipur shed tears of joy experiencing it as the real spirit of the Lord. All the technical elements mentioned in the Sangeet Shastras are found in Rasleelas such as Nritta (pure dance), Nritya (interpretative dance) and Natya (theme expressed through 4 kinds of abhinaya), two distinct divisions of tandava and lasya, the prabandhas (musical compositions). The songs are sung in Brajaboli, old Bengali,meitheli Sanskrit, Braj and now in Manipuri language written by devotional poets like Chandidas, Vidyapati, Gyandas, Jaydev and others. They have a variety of talas ranging from 4 beats to 68 beats and their various rhythm patterns as well as dances on Nritta and Nritya prabandhas. Manipuri Dance is one of the most graceful and lyrical dance styles in India. The swaying movements of the neck and torso are inspired from the bamboo trees lilting in the breeze.
Manipuri Dance style has its own typical set of colourful costumes and décor. It also has an appropriate musical score playing a complimentary role. These are evolved to suit the nature and spirit of the social functions and religious festivals.
Dancing in Manipur has been fulfilling its function to the fullest throughout the centuries in relation to both the individual and the society. To the individual it has brought spirituality and to the society solidarity through purest delight.