Tuesday, November 23, 2004


I am ecstatic. I have glimpsed the Idea I had when I was creating this project in my mind come to life. I crossed over from Idea to Reality today.

Partly because I was concerned over Yoshiko’s state of mind yesterday, partly to hold her hand and, yes, partly because I was curious, I decided to go with her as her interpreter to her dance interaction at Rase’s.

I am sure glad I did.

Four lovely young girls stood before her as Yoshiko talked to them. “I am sorry if I forget your names. Forgive me if I point to you.” “Tomorrow at the Temple, you will do your dance, then mine, then yours again, then I will finish.” “What do you want to wear? Do you always wear a phanek? What about the top? Is a plain T shirt OK or do you feel more comfortable with a wrap as well?” “Do you all have a dark striped phanek? No, it doesn’t have to be all the same color but all dark perhaps? With a long-sleeve black top?” “Can you please turn around? I love your hair. Can everyone put up your hair in a high ponytail like she does?” “What about the boys? Is all black OK? Will it break too much tradition to dance in trousers and T-shirt?”

I am moved by the importance and individual respect she gave to each and every one of them. I don’t know if anyone else had ever consulted them before. Had they always been vessels, vehicles of another’s vision, of another’s creation?

Yoshiko decides on the Weavers Dance of the shaman priestesses. Then the Kabui Naga Kit Lam Dance of the Crickets. “Can you dance without music? To silence? What is the minimum you need?” Rase feels the dancers need percussion at the minimum for them to synchronize. “OK, drums then. But let me just say this. You are so amazingly synchronized I feel you can dance to silence. But drums are fine.”

Rase’s husband Akabi jumps in. He is amazingly quick. And knowledgeable. “How about the Mao Naga dance? It has no music or percussion, just a ‘Hou!” shouted at the beginning of each transition?”

Yoshiko wants to see it. The dancers start. Yoshiko glows. She nudges me over and over again. Eyes shining, she whispers, “Lucinda Child! Lucinda Child!”. Then I begin to see it. I see Lucinda Child. I see a new modern dance where, on so many previous occasions, I had merely seen a beautiful Mao dance.

I now begin to see Manipur through Yoshiko’s eyes. It was just as I had hoped: that during this trip Manipuris would see themselves through the eyes of strangers from afar.

We move on to the drummers for Yoshiko’s sections. “Can you give me a basic beat? A four-four, six maybe?”

The handsome young drummer complies on his large langden drum, his hairlock flying behind him.

“Do you have counterpoint?” She turns to me, "Can you explain counterpoint to the drummers?”

I try, clumsily. The drummer gives me three.

“There are three kinds of counterpoints; maybe more if you ask a pung Oja,” I tell Yoshiko.

“Give me the basic one,” Yoshiko says. A second drummer takes over the langdel and the young man moves onto a smaller pung.

“This one can give more detail while the langdel sticks to its pattern. We will change roles as we go along.” he explains. It was quite sublime.

“Can you give me a rhythm cycle about seven to ten minutes long? I can’t dance much longer than that.” Yoshiko says.

“I can give you exactly ten minutes. It will take some thinking.” The boy replies.


“Exactly. I will compose it later after you leave. But listen to this for now.”

The boys play their drums. We listen.

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