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Indian Dance 

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One of the ways in which people express happiness, any where in the world is through celebration with song and dances.

Indian dance was first created by Lord Shiva.

Bharatanatyam, Chakiarkoothu Kathak, Kathakali, Krishnanattam, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Mohiniattam, Odissi, Ottanthullal and Yakshagana .....What are these?

These are the names of some of the popular dance styles in India. Besides these there are many folk dances like the "Dandia" "Garba" and "Ras" from Gujarat, "Lavani" from Maharashtra, "Bhangra" from Punjab, "Chhou" and "Gambhira", folk dances of West Bengal, "Mando" a  folk dance from Goa, "Rouff"is a folk dance of Kashmir  and many more. 

 All forms of Indian dance essentially involve the graceful movement of hands and feet according to a particular rhythm, known as taal when music is played. Facial expressions, known as bhavam are more pronounced in the case of the traditional forms of dance.   

 One of the forms of Shiva is Nattaraj who creates and destroys through his cosmic dance. Later, his art of dancing was passed on to the human world by the yogis, Narad and Bharat Muni. They wrote the ancient books known as the Rig Vedas. Natya Sastra means the scicnce of dance. In these books the authors write about the science behind dance and drama. 

All dance forms are structured around the nine "rasas" or emotions

  1. sringara (love)

  2. roudra (heroic)

  3. hasya (humorous)

  4. bhibasta (disaster)

  5. bhayanak (fear)

  6. viram (courage)

  7. karuna (compassion)

  8. adbhuta (wonder)

  9. shanta (peace). 


Indian dance is divided into Nritta and Natya 

Nritya is pure dance. The rhythmic elements of the hand and feet along with the expressions of the face 

Natya is the dramatic element which tells the story.  Most Indian dances take their themes from India's rich mythology and folk legends. Thus, Indian dance is both a form of worship and an expression of man's most profound emotions.

The Sangeet Natak Academi

On May 31 1952 the government of India set up the Sangeet Natak Akademi or The National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama. It is the national level academy for performing arts Prestigious awards and fellowship are awarded by the academy. The functions of the academy include efforts to preserve and promote the vast cultural heritage of India expressed in the forms of music, dance and drama.

The Sangeet Natak Akademi currently confers classical status on eight Indian dance forms

  • Bharatanatyam - Tamil Classical Dance

  • Odissi - Orissa Classical dance

  • Kuchipudi - Telugu Classical dance

  • Manipuri - Manipur Classical Dance

  • Mohiniaattam - Kerala Classical Dance

  • Sattriya - Asamese Classical Dance

  • Kathakali - Malayalam Classical Dance

There are several Indian dance studios in the US. Individual dance maestros also conduct dance classes. The two most popular dances are Bharat Natyam and Kathak. Many parents go out of their way to involve their kids in the classes so that they can enjoy and learn the Indian culture through dance. 

Classical Indian Dance in Bollywood Movies

Most Indian Bollywood actresses learn Bharatnatyam, Katkak and more. Legends in Indian cinema have performed many classical moves on celluloid. Dance in early Bollywood films, was primarily modeled on classical Indian dance styles and particularly those of historic northern Indian courtesans (tawaif), or folk dances. Modern films often blend this earlier style with Western dance styles. Watch and bollywood movie and you will see forms of classical dance blended beautifully and rhythmically with modern dance steps. 

"Item number" is a dance performed in a Bollywood movie by an "item girl" most ly not the main female lead,  often completely unrelated to the main cast and plot of the film. She performs a catchy song and dance number in the film. Helen became the most famous of them all as an "item girl" In older films, the "item number" was  performed by a courtesan (tawaif) dancing for a rich client or as part of a cabaret show. In modern Bollywood films, item numbers may be inserted as discotheque sequences, dancing at celebrations, or as stage shows.

Here are a couple of the popular dances explained briefly.

Bharat Natyam Click For More

This dance originated in the state of Tamil Nadu in South India. Traditionally the Bharat Natyam is performed by women. It is mostly performed by a solo artist. Bharata Natyam has been handed down through the centuries by dance teachers (or gurus) called nattuwanars and the temple dancers, called devadasis.

The complete performance of this dance involves six stages. They are Alarippu (invocation), Jathi Swaram (note combinations), Shabdam (notes and lyrics), Varnam (a combination of pure dance and abhinaya), lighter items like Padams and Javalis (all erotic) and finally the thillana (again pure dance).


Kathak originated in the State of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. It was originally performed by communities of people called Kathakaras or story tellers. Kathak is also known as Braj Raas. Both men and women perform this dance. Music composition is based on lyrics such as Thumri, Dadra, Ghazal and Kavitas.

The dance contains the following comments: Thata, the opening sequence, Amad, Paran, and finally the Tarana. A notable feature of Kathak is the intricate footwork and the highlight of the dance is the Tahai, a spinning movement in one spot at great speed.



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