Guru Bipin Singh

Guru Bipin Singh Association India and Abroad

September 24, 2014

Guru Bipin Singh Association India and Abroad, whose premiere function was held on August 29, 2014 in New York, is the brain child of Sanjib Bhattacharya, a disciple of Guru Bipin Singh, and an accomplished choreographer. The New York Manipuri community with Jagannath Lairenjam, a talented Manipuri drum dancer seconded Sanjib’s thoughts that something should be done in honor of Guru Bipin Singh and found sponsorship for a large part of the function.

Guru Bipin Singh, the doyen of Manipuri dance needs no introduction. This is the first time an award, honor or lecture is being done in his memory. Despite several invitations, Bipin Singh never travelled to North America. When asked he would reply, “I quit wearing shirt and trousers, do not want to do that again….”  Those of his disciples who brought his dance to this land, through many odds needed to be honored first. Hence the Association decided to hold its first function in New York City honoring Shantibala Devi from Montreal, Canada, Guru Naba Ghanashyam Singha and Indrani Devi from Washington D.C., Jagannath Leirenjam from New York, and Sohini Ray from Los Angeles. Jonathan Hollander, artistic director of the Battery Dance Company, was the guest of honor and presented the awards.

Many distinguished people from India’s dance world like Sonal Mansingh, Darshana Jhaveri, Dr. Sunil Kothari, Kalavati Devi and Ojha M. Thoiba Singh sent written messages wishing the function success. The function was held in the community church in Jackson Heights. The local Manipuri community decorated the stage in authentic Manipuri style. A documentary film about Guru Bipin Singh was screened and Sohini Ray did commentary on the film in English. Jonathan Hollander spoke about his long association with Guru Bipin Singh and the Jhaveri sisters. Local choreographer Meena Basu-Nag felicitated Hollander. In the second half of the program Sohini Ray, Sanjib Bhattacharya and Jagannath Lairenjam performed some of Guru Bipin Singh’s choreography. The evening ended with dinner sponsored by North American Bangladeshi Manipuri Association. Yesha Naik served as the master of ceremony.

Says Sohini Ray, “My first gratitude is to Sanjib Bhattacharya for taking this initiative. This is the first time anything has been done in Guruji's name. Guru Bipin Singh, the doyen of Manipuri dance, had never received the recognition he deserved, and after his death in 2000, nothing has been done in his name either. The best part of the function for me was being able to provide a commentary on some film footage on Guruji that shed light on his genius as a choreographer and as a master of the tradition.

The New York Manipuri community’s warmth and support was exemplary. They did everything they could to support the function. Jagannath Lairenjam, a Manipuri drummer/drum-dancer in New York, mobilized the community to support this effort.

It was a sombre evening where the three of us, Guruji's disciples, paid a dance tribute to him. For me, after spending all these years in the US, wherever I go to perform when I am usually confronted with comments like “Manipuri? What is it?" or “I have never even heard of this place or this dance form” from expatriate Indians, it was very gratifying to be recognized by my own dance family.  When I was hired to teach Manipuri dance in NYU and later in UCLA, many of the dance faculty had not heard of my dance form, leave alone the general American public. I only hope that we can move forward and preserve Guruji’s name and our dance form that he gave his life for in larger and more meaningful ways.”