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Louise Lightfoot and Rajkumar Priyagopal Singh: the first Manipuri dance tour of Australia, 1951
journal contributionposted on 2014-01-01, 00:00 authored by Amit Sarwal
Manipur, a small state in the North-Eastern corner of India, is traditionally regarded as the home of gandharvas (the celestial dancers). Manipuri is one of the 11 dance styles recognized by the Ministry of Culture of India that have incorporated various key techniques mentioned in the ancient treatises like the Natya Shastra and Bharatarnava and has been placed under 'a common heritage' called Indian classical dance forms (shastriya nritya) - Bharata Natyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Mohiniyattam, Odissi, Sattriya, Chhau, Gaudiya Nritya, and Thang Ta. In 1951 Louise Lightfoot, the 'Australian mother of Kathakali' dance, visited the remote mountain state of Manipur to learn more about Manipuri dance. Soon she was successful in persuading and bringing eminent exponents of Manipuri dancing style Jagoi, Rajkumar Priyagopal Singh and Lakshman Singh, to tour Australia. Priyagopal, with the help of Lightfoot and their international tours, to some extent, de-provincialized and also popularized the Manipuri dance and paved the way for other dancers from North-eastern region of India in the International art world. Through this paper I attempt to highlight the contribution of Lightfoot in the promotion of Manipuri dance and in Australia. I here also engage explicitly with Priyagopal and Lightfoot's unusual dance collaboration and trace the historical journey and reception of a Manipuri dance in Australia. © 2014 © 2014 Taylor & Francis.