In love with Manipuri Dance – Dr. Sohini Ray

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In Collaboration with FindingTheVoices.com

She is a non-Manipuri. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of Manipuri Dance Visions, training centre of classical Manipuri dance in Los Angeles, USA and a Lecturer in Anthropology at Santa Monica College, USA. Also, she has written a dissertation essay on the Meetei Mayek script.

Yes, it’s true. She is Dr. Sohini Ray, a Bengali has been promoting Manipuri Dance and the State itself through her extensive research work.

Dr. Ray, a rare combination of an outstanding performer and a prolific scholar, has won the prestigious Lestor Horton award in 2008 for her production “Gita Govinda” (Lestor Horton award is the equivalent of the Grammy. It is given for excellence in live concert dance) and received two more Horton nominations in 2007 and 2011. She has also won the Los Angeles Treasures award in 2007, and fetched numerous grants and fellowships. A Ph. D. holder in Anthropology from University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Dr. Ray has held fellowships in Harvard University and has taught both academic and practical dance classes in several American Universities.

Her research on Manipuri dance won the prestigious J.B. Donne prize in art of Anthropology from the Royal Anthropological Institute, UK in 2009; she being the first dance-researcher in the world ever to have achieved this rare accolade, also the first Asian and the first woman.

Dr. Ray was identified as a child prodigy by the legendary Manipuri dance maestro late Guru Bipin Singh at the age of seven and was trained by him and his senior disciples, the Jhaveri Sisters for more than twenty-five years. She had also received the prestigious national scholarship in Manipuri dance from the Government of India at the age of fourteen and clinched numerous prizes and awards as a young performer in India, and was a lead dancer in Jhaveri Sisters dance troupe for several years. Concurrently, while dancing professionally full-time through her college and university careers, she stood first class first in Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Anthropology from University of Calcutta. In 1992 she chose to move to United States to pursue MA in dance in University of California at Los Angeles, and has lived and worked there since.

Dr. Ray has travelled and researched in remote regions of Manipur for the past twenty years and has got one of the finest collection of audio-visual materials on Manipuri dance in the world.

In an attempt to promote the art, she had toured India to showcase her solo dance production “Bhaktirasgi Maangal Khonjel: Sounds and Lights of Devotion” from December 27, 2012- January 12, 2013.

The said production which she had performed in India for the first time was a finalist nominee for the 2010 Margaret Mead award given by the Society of Applied Anthropology of the American Anthropological Association for successfully establishing dance as an application of Anthropology. It featured live dance pieces from classical Manipuri dance (originally choreographed by late Guru Bipin Singh in collaboration with the Jhaveri Sisters) and film segments shot in temples of Manipur showing the rich ritual roots of the dance form.

Original Podcast is available at Finding the Voices by Monica Ingudam Episode 13 

 

 

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