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A Brief Introduction To The Indian Dance Forms: Classical, Folk, Bollywood !

Updated on January 3, 2017
ChitrangadaSharan profile image

Chitrangada loves the richness of Indian art,culture and traditions. As a writer she wants to spread information about India to the readers

Indian Classical Dance: Bharatnatyam
Indian Classical Dance: Bharatnatyam | Source

Quotes:

Dance can be a profession, it can lead to stardom. Of course it can. But it can also be a process of meditation. It can be therapeutic. It can be a way to grapple with our own inner fears and demons. It can be a purely physical endeavour. It can be a purely mental journey. It can be a self-realisation of one’s cultural roots. It can lead to spiritual fulfillment. Indian classical dance is all this and so much more! Little wonder that even the gods danced in India. They too probably realized that it added value to their bliss in heaven!"
- Geeta Chandran

Introduction To Classical Indian Dance Forms:

© Chitrangada Sharan, December, 2015

  • Anyone familiar with the Indian culture must be familiar with the significance of classical music and classical dance forms in India.
  • Many styles of dancing have emerged and evolved over the years but nothing can replace the traditional and classical dance forms.
  • The term "classical" or Shashtriya signifies Natya shashtra based performing art styles.
  • Classical dance performances traditionally feature a story or a dance drama.
  • The Nritya or the dance uses facial expressions and Mudra or hand gestures, to narrate the story or to demonstrate concepts such as particular objects, weather, aspects of nature and emotions.
  • Classical Indian dance is also known as Natya which includes singing and acting or Abhinaya.
  • Different dance forms have originated in different parts of India according to the local traditions and culture.

Indian Classical Dance: Eye gestures
Indian Classical Dance: Eye gestures | Source
Indian Classical Dance: Hand gestures
Indian Classical Dance: Hand gestures | Source
Indian Classical Dance: Foot movements
Indian Classical Dance: Foot movements | Source

How Many Classical Dance Forms Are There In India?

§ The national academy for performing arts, Sangeet Natak Academy has recognized eight styles of traditional dances as Indian classical dances. These might or might not have origin in religious activities of ancient times.

  1. Bharatnatyam (Tamil Nadu)
  2. Kathak (Uttar Pradesh)
  3. Kathakali (Kerala)
  4. Kuchipudi (Andhra Pradesh)
  5. Manipuri (Manipur)
  6. Odissi (Odisha)
  7. Mohiniattyam (Kerala)
  8. Sattriya ( Assam)

§ All these dance forms may look similar at a first glance but they are quite different from each other in theory and performances. They have originated in different states of India and have different history from each other.

§ In ancient India, there were no dedicated auditorium. or theatres for dance performances. , Dance was normally a religious/ spiritual activity and was performed in temples to worship Gods and Goddesses.

§ The most revered Hindu Deities such as Lord Shiva, Goddess Kali, Lord Krishna, Lord Rama are represented in classical Indian dancing. Shiva's Tandava and Krishna's Raas Lila are some of the examples.

§ Each part of the body is involved and the expressions are mostly by eyes, head and hand gestures in coordination with disciplined foot movements.

§ The dancers spend a whole lifetime to learn, practice and preach the classical dances with deep passion which is unmatched.

Dance is for everybody. I believe that the dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people."

~~ Alvin Ailey

Indian Classical Dance: Kathak
Indian Classical Dance: Kathak | Source
Indian Classical Dance : Kathakalli
Indian Classical Dance : Kathakalli | Source
Indian Classical Dance: Kuchipudi
Indian Classical Dance: Kuchipudi | Source
Indian Classical Dance: Manipuri
Indian Classical Dance: Manipuri | Source
Indian Classical Dance: Mohiniattam
Indian Classical Dance: Mohiniattam | Source
Indian Classical Dance: Odissi
Indian Classical Dance: Odissi

A Brief Introduction To The Classical Dances Of India:

♣ Bharatnatyam:

One of the most popular classical Indian dances, Bharatnatyam has its origin in South India in the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Bharatnatyam dance is almost 2,000 years old and is believed that it was revealed by Lord Brahma to Bharata, a famous sage who then codified this sacred dance in a Sanskrit text called the Natya Shastra.

♣ Kathak:

Kathak as an Indian classical dance originated in North India and is derived from the word katha, which means story telling in artistic way.

There were Kathakars or bards who used to recite religious and mythological stories accompanied with music, hand, eye gestures with disciplined foot movement in this elegant dance form.

♣ Kathakali:

This classical dance form from the Indian state of Kerala is popular for its unique make up and heavy costumes. Kathakali means dance drama or story play.

Kathakali is recognized as one of the most creative and wonderful dance drama form. Indian epics such as Ramayana, the Mahabharata and other mythologies are portrayed in this most popular classical dance form.

♣ Kuchipudi:

Kuchipudi derives its name from the Kuchipudi village of Andhra Pradesh in Southern part of India.It has its origins as old as 17th century

Kuchipudi enacts dances from the Hindu Epics, mythological characters and it is a pleasure to watch the combination of classical music, dance and abhinaya (acting).

Manipuri :

Manipuri dance as the name suggests has its origins from the state of Manipur.in North East of India.

The Manipuri dance form is unique and graceful due to its delicacy in dancing, light foot movements, music and costume. Just like the simple people of Manipur it signifies simplicity and poetic beauty.

♣ Mohiniattam :

A classical dance form of Kerala in Southern part of India, Mohiniattam is a combination of two words. Mohini which means beautiful women and attam which means dance.

It is a beautiful feminine style of classical dance form with graceful body movements. Mohiniattam dance form is in line of tradition of Devadasi system, which later evolved and attained the classical dance status.

♣ Odissi :

OdIssi as an Indian classical dance form originated in the state of Odisha.

Almost 2000 years old, this dance form has the distinction of being highly sensuous, ecstatic and passionate style of dancing and has its origin in the Devadasi tradition of ancient India.



Folk dances of India: Garba
Folk dances of India: Garba | Source
Folk Dances of India: Bhangra
Folk Dances of India: Bhangra | Source
Tribal dances of India
Tribal dances of India | Source

Folk Dances And Tribal Dance Forms Of India

Folk dance forms and Tribal dances of India are those dances that are usually performed in groups and have their roots in villages and various tribal areas.

These dance forms are performed to express their everyday work, festivals, seasons, rituals and many other celebrations. These dances are part of their life. So one can see people dancing on weddings, child birth, harvesting etc.

Some of the folk dance forms that are performed in different states of India can be listed as---

  • Bedara Vesha, Dollu Kunthia (Karnataka)
  • Garba, Dandiya, Ghodakhund, Gagari (Gujarat)
  • Ghoomar, Raasiya (Rajasthan)
  • Bhangra, Gidda (Punjab)
  • Chholiya (Uttarakhand)
  • Bihu (Assam)
  • Sambalpuri (Odisha)
  • Neyopa, Bacha Nagma in Jammu and Kashmir

Like other dances these folk and tribal dances also have definite costumes and accessories which distinguishes them and gives them identity.

Mostly people learn these dances by watching others perform and not like classical dances which need theoretical as well as practical training and also qualify in examination related to their dance training. .

Bollywood style of Dance
Bollywood style of Dance | Source

Bollywood Dances!

  • Bollywood refers to the Cinema and film industry in Mumbai (Earlier Bombay).
  • The dances in Indian cinema are not confined to a particular style of dancing.
  • They can be a combination of Indian classical, folk dance, tribal dance, contemporary style, Western style of dancing.
  • Normally it is to express a part of the script through dance, drama, lyrics and these Bollywood dances are choreographed by artists well versed in many styles of dancing.
  • What comes out is amazing because it has all the attractions that can keep the attention of the audience.
  • The costume, ornaments, music, props, scenery, whether outdoor or indoor all add to the charm of a popular Bollywood dance performance.
  • It is difficult to imagine an Indian film without a song and dance sequence. People love it and film makers make it in keeping with the trend most liked by movie watchers.


Which style of Indian Dance do you like the most?

See results

To Sum up:

  • Indian Classical Dance is an ancient cultural tradition in India.
  • Across the country huge group of men and women can be found dancing at festivals and weddings, child birth and other occasions to celebrate.
  • This is the way they express their happiness and love for their rich culture and traditions.
  • This is the reason why dance and song feature heavily in Indian films as well..

© Chitrangada Sharan 18th Dec. 2015


All Rights Reserved.

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Everything in the universe has rhythm. Everything dances.

~~~~Maya Angelou

Bharatnatyam dance, source: Youtube

Manipuri Dance: source: You tube

© 2015 Chitrangada Sharan

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    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 16 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Indian Classical Dance: Kuchipudi such a classic. I enjoyed the video. Incredible dancing. Dancing enriches my soul.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I enjoy articles like this one. I always learn something new about a different culture. Thank you for allowing me to be your student.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 16 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Oh wow! This is a fascinating hub. Music and dance are two things that peak my interest and it was fun to read about classical Indian dances. I love the use of hand expressions and the costumes are extraordinary.

    • emge profile image

      Madan 16 months ago from Abu Dhabi

      I am very fond of Indian classical dance. Excellent hub.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 16 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      How exquisitely marvelous. I was carried away in my experience here. Thank you for a wonderful piece.

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 16 months ago

      An informative hub describing the vast cultural heritage of India!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
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      Chitrangada Sharan 16 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Devika, for reading and commenting on this hub! Glad you liked it. It is always a pleasure to read your feedback.

      Thank you!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
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      Chitrangada Sharan 16 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you billybuc, for appreciating the hub! I am glad you liked the information about Indian classical dance forms.

      Thank you for your kind words!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
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      Chitrangada Sharan 16 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you MarleneB, for your appreciation of the hub and positive feedback!

      It is not possible to cover the origin, history, variety and the vast details of Indian dances in a single hub. However I tried to provide a brief introduction to Indian dances.

      Thank you and it is always a pleasure to read your comments.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
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      Chitrangada Sharan 16 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you emge, for your kind visit and positive comments!

      Glad you liked the hub.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
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      Chitrangada Sharan 16 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Ericdierker, for your appreciative comments!

      I am pleased to know that you liked this hub. Always a pleasure to get your feedback.

      Thank you!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
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      Chitrangada Sharan 16 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Shaloo, for your kind visit and comments!

      Being an Indian, You know quite well that it is not possible to cover the vast cultural tradition of India in a single hub. This is just a small effort and I am glad you liked it.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 16 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thank you for the introduction to Indian dance forms. I cannot name the forms I've seen, but they're all beautiful. I like the quote by Geeta Chandran. Thank you very much.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 16 months ago from london

      Incredibly beautiful Hub and yes, music and dance are significant rhythms, not only in the physical world, but in the realm of the Spirit. We need to look no further than Rumi or Meera (Mirabai) or the great Seers Lord Chaitanya or Ramakrishna.

      A most inspirational video.

    • dghbrh profile image

      deergha 16 months ago from ...... a place beyond now and beyond here !!!

      Hello there, how are you doing?

      Its a really very nice and enlightening hub. I have been thinking about to write a hub on the same topic but due to time constraint could not make it and now I am really so happy to see my dearest friend coming up with the same topic.

      I am a student of Sattriya Dance form from Assam and in 5th year now. This is a classical dance form which is mainly propagated in the Satras of Majuli ( biggest river island of Assam). I wish in due course of time I can manage to prepare a hub in detail about this classical dance form from Assam.

      I loved reading your hub very much. A very nice work. Shared across.

      Many warm loves toward you my friend.

      Regards always

      deergha

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 16 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you MsDora, for your kind words and I am glad you liked the hub!

      There is a lot of diversity in India and thus in the dance forms too. It needs lot of study and research to understand and distinguish one from the other.

      Hope you are doing fine. Thank you!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
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      Chitrangada Sharan 16 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you manatita44, for your kind visit and comments!

      I am quite aware of your keen interest and understanding of the Indian culture and I appreciate it very much. Classical Dance here has elements of spirituality and without devotion it is difficult to be a good dancer.

      Thank you so much and have a blessed day!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
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      Chitrangada Sharan 16 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Hi Deergha!

      So nice to see you here after a long time. I am glad you liked the hub. It is great that you are learning Sattriya dance. Though this dance form has been recognized by Sangeet Natak Academy as Indian classic dance, I could not get much information or pictures of this during my research. It is good that you have mentioned about it in the comments.

      I would be eagerly waiting for your hub related to this.

      Thank you so much for your lovely comments, share and good wishes!

      Have a blessed day today and always!

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      Deb Hirt 16 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      I prefer the classical style of Indian dance over the commercial Bollywood, but even it has its place in modern popularity. My feeling is that unless one has seen the beauty and styles of the Indian classical dance, one is in for a superb treat.

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 16 months ago from Indonesia

      A very interesting about Indian dances. I love watching Indian movies and one scene I look forward to enjoying is the dance part. The movements are so dynamics as well as entertaining.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 16 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Deb, for your nice comment and it is always a pleasure to get your feedback on my hubs!

      You are right, the classical dance forms can not be replaced with any other form of dancing. Only those who have done training in classical dance, can attain the grace and poise in any commercial dance style as well. The classical dance training gives a rhythm and a natural flow to the dancer that can not be missed when you watch their performance. Otherwise it just looks like a physical exercise.

      Thank you again for stopping by!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
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      Chitrangada Sharan 16 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you agusfanani, for your kind visit and appreciation of the article. I am pleased to know about your interest in Indian dance forms. There is a vast variety and it is very difficult to sum it all up in one single hub. But I have tried to introduce the most prominent of them.

      I am glad you liked it. Thank you for stopping by and for following me!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 16 months ago from England

      I love watching Indian films over here in England, all the dancing and singing, its so happy and fun! lol! great hub and I learned s0 much, Happy Christmas to you, nell

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
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      Chitrangada Sharan 16 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Nell, for reading and appreciating the hub! Glad to learn about your interest in Indian music and dance forms.

      Merry Christmas to you as well!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 16 months ago from California

      Beautiful and fun hub!!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
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      Chitrangada Sharan 16 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Audrey Howitt, for appreciating!

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 16 months ago from Georgia

      Hi, Great, informative hub. I have an interest in Indian dance styles, but never really followed up on exploring it. I got as far as incorporating some dance moves from Bollywood style dance in my exercise routines. This was excellent information to learn. Thank you for providing such an in depth account of the various forms of Indian dance.

      Take care.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker suzettetaos 16 months ago from Taos, NM

      Beautiful and interesting hub. Of course the dance I am most familiar with is Bollywood. We see a lot of that here in the U.S. Very informative on the other classical dance forms in India. Your photos and images are gorgeous. Thanks for sharing this with us and it is good to know some of India's culture.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 16 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Cynthia, for reading and commenting on this hub!

      I can understand that most people know about Bollywood dancing since that is the commercial form of dancing. But Classical dance is the foundation or the base and a training and knowledge of this can make a dancer feel complete.

      I am glad you got some idea about the various Indian dance forms.

      Thank you!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 16 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Suzette, for your kind visit and appreciation of the hub!

      I am glad you got some idea about the vast culture of India, especially with regard to Indian dance forms.

      Yes Bollywood dances are the ones, most people get to see and are familiar with.

      The classical dance performances are usually stage shows , in auditoriums or art centres. These classical dancers or folk dancers generally do not perform in movies. They have a very spiritual approach towards dance performances. They do run schools to teach and pass on their talent to the future generations.

      Thank you and it is always a pleasure to read your comments!

    • Anne Harrison profile image

      Anne Harrison 16 months ago from Australia

      Thank you so much for such an interesting and informative hub. Our world may seem to shrink, yet there is always something new to learn

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
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      Chitrangada Sharan 16 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Anne Hsrrison, for your kind visit and appreciation!

      I am glad you found this hub interesting and informative.

      You are right, I have learnt so much at HP about different countries and their culture.

      Thank you !

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 16 months ago

      The women in the photos are beautiful and look graceful. I enjoyed reading about the dance forms. Thank you for the education.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 16 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Dianna, for reading and commenting on this article.

      I am glad you got some idea and liked the brief introduction about Indian dance forms.

      Thank you and have a great day and a Happy 2016!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 15 months ago from Dubai

      Interesting and informative hub. My favorite forms of dance are Kathak and Bharatha Natiyam. Enjoyed reading.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
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      Chitrangada Sharan 15 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Nithya, for reading and commenting on this hub!

      Glad you enjoyed the information. Thank you and have a great day!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 15 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a beautiful and very interesting hub. I enjoy watching Indian dance forms. I think the classical style is beautiful and I love the energy of the Bollywood dances. Thank you for sharing all the information.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 15 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you AliciaC, for your kind visit and appreciation of the hub!

      I am pleased to know about your interest in Indian dance forms.

      Thank you for your positive comments!

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 14 months ago from Orlando Florida

      This is an excellent and beautiful hub about the dance of India. I learned so much and have a whole new appreciation of Indian dance. I never thought of dance as a form of meditation, but now that you mentioned it, I can totally understand that. The video shows the dancer moving in such a precise and elegant way--it is like ballet. Very well done!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 14 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Catherine Giordano, for your kind visit and appreciation of the hub! I am glad you liked the brief introduction of the Indian dance forms.

      Yes, the classical dance is a form of meditation and the dancers are fully involved in it not only physically but spiritually.

      Thank you for your wonderful comments!

    • florypaula profile image

      florypaula 14 months ago

      Sometimes I like to mimic Indian dance in my house. Of course I am far from comparing to real dancers, but it is such a fun dance style. I have always considered it to be an art to be able to dance like that.

      Great hub.

      Have a nice day :)

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 14 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you florypaula, for your kind visit and lovely comments!

      I appreciate your liking for Indian dance forms. Glad you liked this brief introduction to Indian dance forms.

      A very good day to you!

    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 12 months ago from Houston, TX USA

      Greetings, can you describe what each dance is like? I know nothing of Indian dance.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image
      Author

      Chitrangada Sharan 12 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thank you Jay C O Brien, for your kind visit and comments!

      Glad to see your interest in Indian classical dance forms. I have given a brief account of some of the dance forms. If you desire to know more about this, you can refer some articles via Wikipedia or You tube videos related to Indian classical dance forms.

      Thank you and have a nice day!

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