Dances of India

Dances of India- by

Dance has always been a highly sacred and potent art-form in India. Dance is an expression of happiness and joy. In India, it is linked to the mythology and culture as well, it is an inseperable fabric of the Indian culture.  Dances reflect the moods and feelings of the common human being. In India, dance is unbound by parameters of time and seasons and each occassion gives happiness to the people.

Indian dances have always appealed far beyond its frontiers. Ethnologists believe that the movements and gestures used in Japanese fan dancing, for example, owe much to Indian influences. The same can be said for the formalized temple dancers of Java.

The dance heritage of India is nearly 5000 years old. Dance in India comprises the varied styles of dances in the country. There are two broad streams of dance forms in India - Classical dances of India and the Folk dances of India, which also include the Tribal dances.

Classical Dance of India :

The Indian subcontinent has given diverse forms of classical dances. It is an umbrella term for various codified art forms rooted in sacred Hindu musical theatre styles whose theory can be traced back to the Natya Shastra of Bharata Muni.

The term "classical" (Sanskrit: "Shastriya") was introduced by Sangeet Natak Akademi to denote the Natya Shastra-based performing art styles. Classical dance performances usually feature a story about good and evil. The entire dance is traditionally presented in a dramatic manner called nritta, which uses "clean" facial expressions and mudrā, or hand gestures, to narrate the story and to demonstrate concepts such as particular objects, weather, aspects of nature, and emotions.

The Indian Classical dances rest on five pillars - music, intricate footwork, hand gestures, eloquent expressions, and the traditinal costumes.

Dance acroynm  -

D - for dedication and dexterity
A - for aesthetics and abhinaya
N - for nature, universe and nritta
C - for culture and costume
E - for expressions and essence

Types of Classical Dances - There are eight types of classical dances in India.

Bharatnatyam : This is one of the oldest and most popular forms of dance in India. Bharatha stands for Bhavana which is mood. Raga is music, and Tala is rhythm, while Natyam stands for Nritya. Movement, mime and music are given equal importance in this dance. It is a form of Indian classical dance that originated in the temples of Tamil Nadu. In the past it was practised ad performed in the temples by a class of dancers known as the devadasis. It was a part of the religious rituals and has a long and hoary past. Bharatanatyam was again revived by activists and dancers like Rukmini Devi and E.Krishna Iyer. Today many recognised universities offer degrees in Bharatanatyam, and artistes are given international recognition and honours.The music of Bharatanatyam is based on Carnatic classical music. The chief musical instruments in Bharata Natyam are the 'Mridangam' and a pair of cymbals. Sometimes Veena, Violin, Ghatam and Flute are also used.

Odissi : This Classical dance style is the most lyrical dance of India. Odissi was traditionally performed in the temples by young girls called maharis, who dedicated themselves to the deity of the temple. Odissi refers to the dance style of the state of Orissa in eastern India. Odissi has two major facets: Nritta or non-representational dance, in which ornamental patterns are created using body movements in space and time; and Abhinaya, or stylized mime in which symbolic hand gestures and facial expressions are used to interpret a story or theme. The dance is performed mainly with the theme of Infinite love of Lord Krishna and Radha.

Kathak : This form of classical dance hails from the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The word Kathak originated from the people who used to dance and enact out kathas or stories largely based on episodes from the epics, myths and legends. During the Mughal rule, Kathak gradually moved out of the temples and into the courts of the rulers. The technique of the dance is based on its intricate footwork and whirling movements in a set time cycle. Balance, poise, and control are three pillars of this style of dance. The tales of  Lord Krishna and Radha form the central theme of the kathak dance.

Kathakali : Kathakali is one of the oldest theatre forms in the world. It originated in the area of southwestern India now known as the state of Kerala. Kathakali is a group presentation, in which dancers take various roles in performances traditionally based on themes from Hindu mythology, especially the two epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Basically, the dance is more theatrical in its instance than lyrical.A traditional Kathakali performance begins in the evening and continues throughout the night,Today, however, it has been modified for the proscenium stage, and the audiences can participate in this theatre experience in the span of a couple of hours.

Kuchipudi: Kuchipudi is one of the well-known Classical Indian Dance form from Andhra Pradesh, India. The name Kuchipudi has origin from the name of a village “KUCHELAPURAM” with resident Brahmins practicing this traditional dance form at Andhra pradesh.It is known for its graceful movements and its strong narrative / dramatic character.The content of most Kuchipudi dances are based on Hindu mythology, religion and spirituality.Kuchipudi has its own style which is very pleasant to watch and many of the songs are tuned to a special rhythm which is unique and enjoyable. The charm of Kuchipudi lies in its fast and intricate footwork, sinuous grace, and the use of the eyes to express moods and feelings. A distinctive feature of this dance is the entry of the characters. Each performer enters in a different way on the stage.

Mohiniattyam : The dance form of Mohiniattyam originated in the region of Kerala in southwestern India. The name Mohiniattyam literally means ‘Dance of the Enchantress.’It is closely related to Bharathanatyam of Tamil Nadu, Mohiniyattamwhich was originally called 'Dasiyattam'. Originated as the temple dance performed by Devadasis, it portrays feminine love in its myriad forms - carnal, devotional and maternal. The white and gold costume, the hairstyle and the highly graceful movements in medium tempo bring out the aesthetic effect.Compared most other dance forms, Mohiniyattam gives more importance to gestural and facial acting. The Mudras (hand gestures) are almost always same as those employed in Kathakali. The artists try to enact the lyrics almost in its entirety, like in Kathakali.

Manipuri: Manipuri is the classical dance from the north East Indian state of Manipur. It is one of the most beautiful dance styles of India.Among the important feature of the Manipuri repertoire are the Sankirtana and the Raas Leela, based on the devotional theme of Krishna and Radha.Another vibrant feature of Manipuri is the Pung Cholam or Drum dance, in which dancers play on the drum known as Pung while dancing with thrilling leaps and turns to a fast rhythm.Today, Manipuri is generally acknowledge as a classical dance form of very high artistic and technical standards.

Folk Dances of India :

Folk dances literally means dances of people. In India, folk dances are an integral part of a common man's life.
Folk dances are accompained by folk music and songs of the region. The costumes of the folk dancers are also a reflection of the tradition and culture of that state or province. The accompanying musical instruments are usually regional in character, and the songs are also in the respective regional language.Folk dances are performed on every possible occasion, to celebrate the arrival of seasons, birth of a child, a wedding and festivals. The dances are simple in terms of steps or movements. Some of the popular folk dances of India are - Bihu (Assam), Bathakamma (Andhra Pradesh), Bhangra (Punjab), Changu (Orrisa), Garbha (Gujarat), Ghoomar (Rajisthan), Giddha (Punjab), Gobbi  (Andhra Pradesh), Kavadi (Tamil Nadu), Raas (Gujarat), etc.

Let us read and let us dance. These two amusements will never do any harm to this world.
- Voltaire

Dance is your pulse, your heartbeat, your breathing. It’s the rhythm of your life. It’s the expression in time and movement, in happiness, joy, sadness and envy.
-Jacques d’ Amboise