'Manipuri dance was a choice beyond me'

passing by

With a vision to create a new generation who will love Manipuri dance form, Dr Sohini Ray, wove a vision 30 years ago and worked day and night to promote this dance form.

“I have worked hard to understand this tradition and its innermost vision. That is how I dreamt of creating a new generation which will love this form, be ready to endure hardships to pursue it and dive deep into its beauty.”

Sohini, born in Kolkata and now residing in the United States of America (US) for the last 20 years, gave her maiden solo performance in the Capital recently at the 6th Indradhanush Dilli 2013, a festival celebrating Indian classical and folk dances. On asking her what kept her away from performing the capital inspite of the fact that Delhi is culturally very active, she says, “I know a lot of dancing and other cultural events happen in Delhi but somehow I never went outside Manipur. I only used to travel from Kolkata to Manipur.”

Born in a family of musicians originally from Dhaka, Sohini was gifted with an innate sense of rhythm and melody. Sohini insists that Manipuri dance chose her and not vice-versa. “At the age of five, I was put into a dance class, knowing nothing about the art form. Choosing Manipuri dance was a choice beyond me. But, here I am dancing for more than 40 years now.”

Her training started with Guru Bipin Singh and she was soon declared a child prodigy by her teachers. Within just six months of her training she played the lead role of ‘Krishna’ in the production ‘Gostha Leela’ which was staged at many prestigious venues in Manipur and Kolkata. At the age of 10 she was the first student in her school to train in pung – the Manipuri drums and had ‘Mridang Vadan’, playing drums along with dance movements at the age of 11.

Dedicated to the service of Manipuri dance, she founded ‘Manipuri Dance Visions’, an institute currently running successfully in US with her batch of students comprising Indians, Americans and even a Filipino.
A full-time dancer, Sohini calls herself a rebel too. “I have done a lot of things in life except dance. I have crossed the border to Myanmar (formerly Burma) and walked through curfews with my camera.”

On her maiden performance in Delhi, she talks about the Munirka gang rape incident also. “Whatever happened was really sad but you know similar things happen in LA too. Each country has its positive and negative aspects. The people are nice and warm here and I have not had any bad experience here.”
Biding adieu to Delhi she says, “I loved bhelpuri and bhalla papri that I had for lunch and would surely love to come back again.”

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