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Performing Arts from India : Dances from all over the country
Dances from the South
Dances from East India
Dances from all four cardinal directions
The colorful and vibrant spirit of India is never better seen than in its many traditional dance forms. Some of these are not so common but others are still part of the popular culture.
Here I have set out to give you a short description into some of the more commonly known dance forms in India.
To make it easier on myself I have restricted myself to only two to three dance forms from each region. Needless to say that there are many many more forms and variations in each form as well, but covering all those would need me to write a book, not a hub. So here we go.
From the North
For North India I would say the most popular folk dance form would be "Bhangara." This is the dance that the state of Punjab is associated with. Taken as a farmer's dance done to thank the lord for a bountiful harvest.
It is the beats of the big drum called "Nagada" that ring in your years and the feisty and active steps that set your feet tapping. Traditionally Bhangara was a male oriented dance, but now days the girls too join in. They also have their own "Gidda" which the boys don't join in.
From the Nawabi state of Uttar Pradesh you will find the graceful and charming dance form of "Katthak". What originated as a form of entertainment in the court of the Nawabs is now a classical dance form honed to a fine degree.
There are different forms of the dance depending on which "Gharana" or tradition your teacher belongs to. The dance is female dominated, but male dancers do also exist.
From the South
Think of those brilliant kajal colored eyes that dart from left to right and you think of the "Bharatnatyam" dancer. Of all Indian dances I think this one is the most well known abroad. The classical dance is a family tradition in the south.
All girls go through compulsory dance training for at least a year when they are kids. If they have talent they continue for longer. So the dance form is flourishing and alive. This is one of the few dances which has some renown male dancers as well.
Speak of male dancers there is one dance from the south of India which is male dominated. This one is called "Kathakali" and comes from Kerela. This dance form is an extended story telling art.
They act out passages from the holy books and from the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Each performer is painted with the most spectacular colors on the face. The eyes are highlighted with black and form an important part of the expressive performance.
From the East
The most far east you can go with a classical dance form would be to the north eastern state of Manipur. The "Manipuri" dance has both male and female dancers. The main dance style here is called "jogai" which deals in circular motions and movements. It can be a bit dizzy for beginners but is based on the movement of the planets around the sun. It is called Lai haroba in the local lingo.
From the state of Orissa you get the "Odissi" dance form. Again a classical dance form that is based on stories of Sri Krishna and his "gopis" in their "ras leela". The torso and head are used in soft flowing motions in the dance and dancers are predominantly female. Most tales told revolve around the actions of Krishna.
Also from the state of Andhra Pradesh we get "Kuchipudi". The dance form is a blend of folk and classical dance. Taken from the Sanskrit theater tradition the dancers today are predominantly female. There is great deal of dramatization in the dance and sagas are literally retold by actions.
From the West
While there are many folk dances from the state of Rajasthan my personal favorite is the "Ghoomer". The dance performances have gyrating motions in which the full colors of the Ghagara worn can be seen. It is wonderful to see them twirling away at speed that you would get dizzy at.
The songs are different and varied, some of tales of valor, some rich in contemporary satire. The experience is even better if you have a couple of "Fire Dancers" in the midst of the the women doing the Ghoomer.
The "Dandia" or its softer version "Garba" from Gurjat are also great folk dances. Here the name of the dance is taken from the "dandas" or sticks that the dancers use during the performance.
These are well decorated and the costumes are very rich in fabric and color. The peak time for the dance is during the "Navratras" or nine days of prayer during the month of Shravan in the local calender.
Since "Lavni" and the "Tamasha" come from the state of Maharashtra, and I have covered them in my hub on Maharashtrian folk arts you can hop across and learn more about them there.
So that brings us to the end of the hub. Dancing is not just an art form in India, it is a way of life. It is common to see men and women dancing in the street when they accompany a "Barat" or a wedding procession to and from the wedding venue. The slightest excuse is good enough to get the volume on the music system blaring and doing an impromptu jig with your friends.