Indian Classical Dances!!

Right From my Childhood days I had a deep fascination towards Indian classical music and Dance. I liked each and every part of it, be it Musical instruments, Costumes, make up, heavy jwellery, Facial expressions and what not. Seeing my serious inclination towards Dance, my mother enrolled me in a dance class and then begin the best phase of my life. I learnt Kathak & free style dancing and spent most of my school days in giving performances on stage which made me not only a good performer, but also made me more expressive and Extrovert when comes to Public speaking. That is what an art teaches us, It gives confidence and power to express ourself in front of others which helps in many situations of life 🙂

So What is Indian classical Dance?

Indian classical dances are performed inside the sanctum of the temple according to the rituals called Agama Nartanam. Natya Shastra classifies this type of dance form as margi, or a soul-liberating dance. Dances performed in royal courts to the accompaniment of classical music are called Carnatakam. A Hindu deity is considered a revered royal guest in his temple, and should be offered all of the “sixteen hospitalities”, among which are music and dance. The “sixteen hospitality” please the senses


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 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. Classical Indian dance is also known as Natya. Natya includes singing and abhinaya (mimeacting). These features are common to all Indian classical styles of dance. In the margi form, Nritta is composed of karanas, while Desi nritta consists mainly of adavus.


What makes a dance classical? There are eight Indian dance-styles which are classified as ‘classical’ because they all have their roots in the Natyashastra, a classical treatise on the arts believed to have been written in Sanskrit by Bharata Muni sometime between 200BC and 200AD.

Many of the classical dances were traditionally performed in temples as a sacred offering to the gods by resident dancers. Today classical dance is performed on stage, most often by solo dancers, though group compositions and innovations in dance choreography are also very popular.

There are four classical dances having their roots in South India: Kathakali and Mohiniattam from the state of Kerala, Bharata Natyam from Tamil Nadu, and Kuchipudi from Andhra Pradesh. In North India we find the origins of Kathak, Odissi from the state of Orissa, Manipuri from the north-eastern state of Manipur, and Sattriya from north-eastern Assam.

Few Classical Dances In India:

India’s many styles of popular, folk and classical dances are as rich and colourful as the country itself 

Manipuri: From the mountainous region of Manipur on the north-eastern border of India, comes the graceful feminine dance called Manipuri. With delicate steps and gentle undulating movements, Manipuri dancers sway to the music while moving their arms in slow circles and arcs. The continuous flowing movements and curving of the body into different postures give this dance form a suppleness and fluidity which contrasts with the quick, sharp movements and strong footwork of the classical dances of South India. Like its movements, facial expressions are also soft and subtle. Manipuri dancers wear long, embroidered skirts along with translucent veils. Male Manipuri dancers play on a drum known as pung while executing exciting leaps and turns set to a fast rhythm.


Kathak: One of the most popular Indian classical dances is Kathakwhich has three main schools or styles based in the North Indian cities of Lucknow, Banaras (Varanasi) and Jaipur. Kathak is characterised by fast rhythmical footwork set to complex rhythms, and impressive lightning-fast pirouettes finishing in precise, dramatic poses. The rhythm and tempo of the dance is set by the accompanying percussion instrument, the tabla, the sounds of which the dancer’s feet emulate through quick, precise footwork accentuated with the sound of bells tied around the dancer’s ankles. Female dancers wear long flowing ankle-length skirts which twirl and flare out during spins and pirouettes, creating beautiful visual designs.


Kathakkali: Traditionally performed only by men, Kathakali from Kerala literally means ‘story-dance’. Performances include several dancers enacting scenes and different characters from Hindu mythology, especially the Ramayana and Mahabharata. This ‘larger-than-life’ art form features bright billowing costumes, colourful make-up, exaggerated expressions and frenetic music which is played by accompanying drummers.


Bharata Natyam : Originating more than 2000 years ago in the south-eastern state of Tamil Nadu, Bharata Natyam is one of the most popular Indian classical dance styles, performed by both male and female dancers. The quick, rhythmical footwork is mathematical in its precision, while symmetrical, geometrical patterns and lines are drawn by the intricate arm and leg movements, and dramatic poses. Like Mohiniattam and Kuchipudi, a distinctive feature of the dance is its basic posture in the half-sitting or demi-plié position.


Sattriya: It originated in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam, where this classical dance has been performed for centuries as a spiritual ritual in monasteries by male monks. Today the dance is a performing art also performed by women in solo and group performances. Though centuries old, Sattriya was officially recognised as a classical dance of India only a few years ago. The repertoire of this classical dance is vast, accompanied by traditional music from Assam which includes a drum called khol, cymbals, flute, violin as well as other instruments. Dancers wear distinctive Assamese costumes and ornaments.


Odissi, the soft and lyrical dance from the eastern state of Orissa can be described as visual poetry! Considered to be linked to the element of water, the gracefulness of the arm and wrist movements, and fluid movements of the torso resembling waves on the ocean, are juxtaposed with firm rhythmical footwork and striking poses. The characteristic postures of this classical dance are the tribanghi, where the body is ‘bent’ in three places (head, waist and hip) and chawk, a quadrangular posture created by the knees bent outwards and outstretched arms forming a square. The love poems of the Gita Govinda describing the love between Radha and Lord Krishna, are a favourite theme of expressive pieces performed in the Odissi style.


Mohiniattam : Kerala’s other classical dance, Mohiniattam, is a graceful and alluring dance performed by women, most often solo. The movements are soft and graceful, characterised by gliding movements. The torso moves in circular figure-8 movements with the legs kept in a half-bent (demi-plié) position. The footwork is rhythmical and energetic, keeping time with the music. Mohiniattam dancers are always dressed in beautiful white and gold costumes.


Kuchipudi : The classical dance of the state of Andhra Pradesh,Kuchipudi, is similar in many ways to Bharata Natyam with its rhythmical footwork and quicksilver movements. A unique feature of the Kuchipudi style is Tarangam, a technique where the dancer dances on a brass plate while moving it across the stage.




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