Many of you may have seen Indian classical dance performances. Some of you may even be learning a particular dance form. For hundreds of years, India has been home to unique dance styles and the very oldest of these trace their origins (beginnings) to ancient texts such as the vedas. They are an important part of India’s culture and history. Let’s understand more about the varied rhythms of Indian classical dances.
Classical vs Folk
In this edition of the Special Report, we will be discussing Indian classical dance forms such as Bharathanatyam and Kathak. Do note the use of the word ‘classical’ here for it is a very important difference that sets apart these dance styles. We have a lot of popular dance styles in India such as ‘Bhangra’ from Punjab and ‘Dandiya’ from Gujarat. Classical dance forms are different from these as they follow a strict set of rules in the way they are performed. Classical dancers also train for years under highly trained teachers before they start performing. In contrast, folk dance can be learnt quickly by watching and imitating folk dancers. It is generally easier and more relaxed than classical dance.
Stepping back in time
Did you know that rules of Indian classicial dance were written almost 2000 years ago? A very learned sage named Bharata wrote a marvellously detailed text called the ‘Natya Shastra’ which laid down the rules for Indian performing arts including music, dance and drama. It was written in Sanskrit and is considered one of the most important of Indian classical texts.
Dance has been prevalent in India since ancient times. Old cave paintings, books, sculpture all point to the important role of dance in Indian culture. One of the oldest references to dance is a bronze sculpture from the Indus Valley civilization that is at least three to four thousand years old.
What’s happening today?
Indian classical dance continues to be very popular and a large number of young people in India learn them in special dance schools found all over the country. One of the most famous of these is ‘Kalakshetra’ in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu. Some of India’s most famous Bharathanatyam dancers belong to this school.
Given how popular dance is, its not surprising that India is home to several famous classical dance festivals set against the backdrop of some of our most famous temples. In the south, the Mamallapuram Dance festival is performed in the ancient sea port of Mamallapuram that was home to the Pallava kings more than ___ years ago. In the east, the state of Orissa plays host to the Konark Dance Festival which is staged in front of the magnificent Sun Temple of Konark.
Indian Classical Dance forms
There are eight main styles of Indian classical dance and they all come from different states of India. As you will see, many of them are religious in nature and were originally (at first) performed in temples.
Bharathanatyam (Tamil Nadu)
Kathak (Uttar Pradesh)
Kuchipudi (Andhra Pradesh)