Traditional Indian dances to specialize in.

March 16, 2009 at 6:24 am 1 comment

Once in a while it helps to sit back and think about things like dance; and what it actually means to be called or to call someone a dancer, and what comes to mind is the evidence of human artistic activity. We have been told that God made man in his image; the artist intuitively knows that the reverse equally applies.
Classical Dance has a primordial origin. Dance is Shiva himself. Dance is language; not of words but of mudras, postures or gestures. When I ask you, “Have you eaten?” you answer, “No”. This is the language of words,but the language of dance and music is symbolic. The performing artist conveys every thing through signs and gestures. Dance is a language not of words, but of feeling and moods. It is the language of the heart.
In India, there are two kinds of dances; the classical, and the contemporary dance styles. Both are popular for their own reasons and both types are pursued equally today.
There are five major styles of classical dance in India. Each of these styles has been developed in specific regions of India. They differ in their language of gestures, postures or mudras, but they are all founded on the principles of rasa and they all draw upon stories and poems that tell about the lives of the Hindu Gods. These include Gods like Lord Shiva (the God of Dance), Lord Krishna, and many more. Each classical dance form has been discussed briefly in the following few pages to give you an overview of the large variety that can be explored by you according to your interest.

Manipuri developed in eastern India. The posture of the Manipuri dancer is such that the dancer’s feet face forward and knees are slightly bent. The dancer moves his or her chest and waist in opposite directions, making a figure-of-eight shapes with the body. The dancer’s arms make graceful, curved movements. His/her fingers trace out delicate circles and curves in the air. The Manipuri style includes a large repertoire (range of dances). Five types, consisting of dances involving whole troupes, as well as solos and duets, deal with a story about Lord Krishna. Another body of dances, the Sankirtanas,
involve male dancers performing jumps to the sound of drums, cymbals and clapping.

Odissi is a dance form of the state of Orissa, in eastern India. Sculptures found in Odissi, dating from the second and first century B.C., show dancers in distinctive poses characteristic of the Odissi style. The style developed from musical plays and was common in temples and village entertainment. Odissi dances were first performed by men dressed as women around temples. Now, the Odissi style is a solo dance form, usually performed by a woman. It has several similar patterns and poses as Bharata Natyam. But it makes greater use of curves in body movements and postures rendering it an innate sensuality. Occasional jumps add vitality to the Odissi style.

Folk dance
This is a form of social dancing that has become part of the customs and traditions of people. There are as many folk dances as there are states in India. Various styles, apart from the five major classical dance styles, are performed in different regions of India. They include the Yakshagana of Mysore, and the Chhau of eastern India. Unlike the classical forms, these dances are not tied down by rules but are more flexible and spontaneous.
Most of them are connected with religious or seasonal festivals. In many of these dances, the performers use sticks or even swords. Examples of folk dance styles include Bhangra, a harvest dance from Punjab, and Kolattam,a circular stick dance
performed by women in Tamil Nadu and the Lavani in Maharashtra

Bharata Natyam
“Bharata Natyam is like a Banyan tree with great roots. You can bend it, turn it, do what ever you want, but its roots remain strong… I want to take dance further, to use it as a language, as an agent of change,” -Mallika Sarabhai.
Bharata Natyam is one of the most important and probably one of the oldest of the classical styles that comes from south India. Although closely linked with local traditional dance-drama, it was used mainly in Hindu religious ceremonies. The movements of this dance style are developed from a basic pose, in which the thighs are turned out ward, the knees are flexed, and the feet are brought close together and are also turned outward. The feet beat out complex rhythms. Performances may last for about two hours and follow a set list of procedures.

Kathak is the major dance style of north India. It combines local folk elements with dance forms that developed in the courts of the Mughal emperors and later, Indian princes.
The folk and temple traditions from which the Kathak style has developed consist mostly of Hindu dance-dramas.
Kathak owes much of its present form to developments made in the 1800s at the court of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the ruler of Lucknow. Dancers perform Kathak keeping their bodies straight. Clever and intricate foot work, including highly rhythmical walks, glides, and fast pirouettes (spinning on one foot), gives the style its vital, dazzling, skillful character. Delicate movements of the eyes, eyebrows, neck, and shoulders are also used in some dances. Kathak is frequently lyric based performance with a sense of raunchiness. Both, men and women, perform Kathak dances. Many dances express love or devotion to Krishna.

Kathakali, from the state of Kerala, is true dance-drama. Kathakali dancers act out the parts of different characters in a play. They dress up in out size costumes to give themselves a larger than- life appearance. They also wear mask-like facial make-up, in colors that have strong symbolic meanings.
Kathakali performances are often held out doors and sometimes go on all night. They are accompanied by a person who sings or recites the poetry, while the dancers convey the meaning of each line with movements and gestures, sweeping body movements, and wide, circling arm movements.
The dancers are also trained to convey exaggerated movements through facial expressions. In former times, male dancers took all the parts in a Kathakali play. But now a days women have also started performing this form of dance.


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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Always Indian  |  March 16, 2009 at 7:27 am

    Great info on all the traditional Indian dances. Somewhere these dance forms have been lost and need to be revived. This generation doesnt understand the value of our culture and heritage.

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