Mixing sacred tradition with impressive athletic prowess, Pung Cholom is not for the faint-hearted – or anyone prone to dizziness.
From the North-Eastern Indian state of Manipur, the dance form involves a mix of acrobatics, martial arts and the use of a hand-beaten drum, called the pung. According to dancer Lipubam Upendra Sharma, from the Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy, the pung, also known as the Manipuri drum, is the “soul” of Manipuri Sankirtana music and classical dance.
“[It’s] an indispensable part of all religious and social rituals and an object of veneration,” Sharma tells SBS. “The cultural significance of the dance thus lies in the use of this venerable object, essential to the sacred tradition.” Not that there is anything solemn about the movements in this revered dance.
The explosive techniques in Pung Cholom require intense physical training, with dancers taking 10 years to perfect their craft. “The dancer needs to be physically strong, agile and open to a regular training regimen under his Guru,” says Sharma, who trains six times per week to stay on top of his craft.
The demanding dance requires performers to have rock-hard core strength and “limbs need to be in perfect shape for the stamina needed for the continuous acrobatic jumps the dance demands."
See for yourself in the video below:
The Pung Cholom dancers are touring Australia as part of the Confluence Festival of India.