Dance

Gem of a journey

Rajkumar Singhajit Singh. Photo: S. Mahinsha   | Photo Credit: S_MAHINSHA

Guru Singhajit Singh is personification of a living culture in all its facets.

Known for his mastery over the dance form of Manipuri, he has distinguished himself as an outstanding performer, choreographer, scholar and artiste of great creative ability.

Singhajit Singh, a Fellow of the Sangeet Natak Akademi and a Padma Shri recipient, has taken his troupe — established in the Capital many decades ago — across the world while daily negotiating the challenges of performing a traditional art away from its cultural context while retaining its essence.

His performances have received appreciation for their elegance, dignity and purity alongside variety and originality.

Excerpts from a conversation with the Delhi-based guru:

You have trained many eminent Manipuri dancers both in and outside of Manipur. What have been their achievements?

My students around the world have taken long strides in and outside Manipur as performers, teachers and scholars.

Some of them have received national awards including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Bismillah Khan Puraskar of the SNA and Delhi Sahitya Kala Parishad Samman.

How have you been trained to be what you are?

I’m trained in different aspects of Manipuri performing arts, including Jagoi, Cholom and Thang Ta, and I am well equipped for my role as a creative choreographer.

I have choreographed creative original work in Manipuri and at least 50 ballets and numerous group and solo dances which have received international acclaim.

As a scholar my book and articles on Manipuri dance have been valuable reference materials on the subject.

My regular lec-dems in schools and colleges in India and abroad are widely appreciated.

In your creative choreography, do you compromise with changing public taste? What are some of your secular productions?

I choreograph on non-secular and secular subjects keeping in mind my classical background and I do not compromise on that. Change is inevitable. There is growth and there is evolution. You have to cater to changing public taste, while remaining true to your roots. Whether traditional or modern, bad art is bad art and as far as I am concerned there is no compromise on that. Among my secular productions are “Maya”, “Swabinash” (terrorism), and some choreographies that deal with martial art.

What are your views on the religious element that forms the core of Indian dance and the hankering of the individual soul to be reunited with the supernatural or God?

The Radha-Krishna concept is the concept of the individual soul’s aspiration to be united with the supernatural soul. It has always been there in Indian dance and will always be there. Who is God anyway? Marx became a God for some people and so did Lenin. However, there is an inherent craving for God in the heart of the dancer as there is in the heart of a sanyasi. Both are looking for the same thing that is ‘Satchitananda’ — when Brahman exists in your consciousness, you experience ultimate bliss. Indian dance is difficult to define. At best it is a tradition.

You came to Delhi in 1954, the year the Jawaharlal Nehru Manipuri Dance Academy was established in Imphal by the Sangeet Natak Akademi. What brought you to Delhi?

Triveni needed a teacher to teach Manipuri Dance. Both Nirmala Joshi and Indira Gandhi had seen my performance at Imphal. It was Nirmala Joshi who requested me to join Triveni and at whose behest I was sent an appointment letter. When I joined, I was barely 22 years old and I was in the last year of my college. My parents were not too keen on sending me, but I took a chance. Though I joined on the 10th of November, officially I became a teacher from the 15th.

Where were classes held before the building at Tansen Marg was inaugurated in 1963, and how many students did you have to start with?

The classes were held in a flat in Connaught Circus. Initially I had only 12 students. Out of them, Charu Sija Mathur, whom I married in 1975, was the only one who remained committed to dance and is today a director and choreographer in her own right. She is an active member of the troupe and accompanies the troupe all over the world. She has also won the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in Manipuri dance.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 4:17:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/gem-of-a-journey/article5530221.ece

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