Kathak dance form originated in the north and at first
was very similar to the Bharatanatyam. Persian and Muslim
influences later altered the dance from a temple ritual
to a courtly entertainment. The influence of the Mughal
tradition is evident in this dance form, and it has
a distinct Hindu-Muslim texture.
The dances are performed straight-legged and the ankle
bells worn by the dancers adeptly controlled. Kathak
has an exciting and entertaining quality with intricate
footwork and rapid pirouettes being the dominant and
most endearing features of this style. The costumes
and themes of these dances are often similar to those
in Mughal miniature paintings.
Though not similar to the Natyasastra, the principles
in Kathak are essentially the same. Here, the accent
is more on footwork as against the emphasis on hasta
mudras or hand formations in Bharatanatyam.
the various forms of classical dance in India, Bharata
Natyam is believed to be the oldest, because it is the
form which is based to the largest extent, on ancient
texts on the dance. For centuries it was danced by Devadasis
in the temples of south India. Movement, mime and music
contribute in equal measure to this beautiful dance
from Tamil Nadu. It is a solo, dance which is devotioal
in spirit. Highly stylised and sophisticated in its
technique, Bharata Natyam is evenly divided between
nritta, pure dance, and nritya, expressinal compositions.
The songs pertain mostly to the theme of love but not
sensual love. These are given an elevated and somewhat
Bharata Natyam performance begins with alarippu, an
invocatory number which is structured to give the effect
of the body unfolding itself by degrees, as if in offering
to God. The dancer begins with a sidelong glance, executes
a lateral glide of the neck, and then fans the movement
out to each part of the body. As she showers alternately
silken and steely blows in space, in strict rhythm with
the drum, the mridamgam, and the syllables sung by the
nattuvanar, the conductor, the feet adorned with ankle
bells change scores of rhythmic patterns.
dancer's skill at both pure dance, seen elsewhere in
items like jatiwaram and tillana and in mime compositions
like shabdam and padam, finds its acme in varnam. This
is the central piece of a Bharata Natyam recital and
makes the greatest demands on the dancer's stamina and
rich and flourishing tradition of dance drama can be
witnessed in the picturesque state of Kerala, a narrow
strip of beautiful land running along the west coast
of India. Here, in the night, the drums roll, beckoning
an audience to a most magnificent spectacle. Kathakali,
a well-developed dance-drama, is a performance where
the actors depict characters from the epics Ramayana
and Mahabharata and from the Puranas (ancient scriptures).
The dancers adorn themselves in huge skirts and head-dress,
wearing a most intricate style of make-up.
draws heavily from drama and is danced with elaborate
masks and costumes. Kathakali recitals are generally
long and while other dance forms are more emotive than
narrative, Kathakali is both. It combines dance with
dialogue to bring myth and legend to life in the temple
courtyards of Kerala. The dancers use their stunning
costumes and make-up, with the accompaniment of drums
and vocalists, to create various moods and emotions.
strong is the identification of the dancers with the
characters they play and so absolute their conviction,
that they seem to surpass themselves, becoming one with
the legendary heroes and heroines they depict.
the indigenous style of dance of Andhra Pradesh took
its birth and effloresced in the village of the same
name, originally called Kuchelapuri or Kuchelapuram,
a hamlet in Krishna district. From its origin, as far
back in the dim recesses of time as the 3rd century
BC, it has remained a continuous and living dance tradition
of this region. The genesis of Kuchipudi art as of most
Indian classical dances is associated with religions.
For a long time, the art was presented only at temples
and that too only for annual festivals of certain temples
to tradition, Kuchipudi dance was originally performed
only by men and they all belonged to the Brahmain community.
These Brahmain families were known popularly as Bhagavathalu
of Kuchipudi. The very first group of Brahmain Bhagavathulu
of Kuchipudi was formed in 1502 AD. Their programmes
were offerings to the deities and they never allowed
women in their groups.
art, to be noted was intended as a dance drama requiring
a set of character, never as a mere dance by a soloist
which is common in present times. This dance drama are
sometimes known as Ata Bhagavatham. The plays are in
Telugu and traditionally all roles are taken by men
plays are enacted in the open air and on improvised
stages. The presentation begins with some stage rites
which are performed in full view of the audience. Then
the Soothradhara or the conductor and the supporting
musicians come on the stage and give a play of rhythm
on the drums and cymbals. In a Kuchipudi performance,
each principal character introduces himself or herself
on the stage with a daru. A daru is a small composition
of dance and song specially designed for each character
to help him or her reveal his or her identity and also
to show the performer's skill in the art. There are
nearly 80 dharus or dance sequences in the dance drama.
Behind a beautiful curtain held by two persons, Satyabhama
enters the stage with her back to the audience. In Bhama
Kalapam, Satyabhama is Vipralamba Nayaki, ie, the heroine
who is deceived by her lover and dejected by his absence.
The most popular Kuchipudi dance is the pot dance in
which a dancer keeps a pot filled with water on her
head and feet kept on a brass plate. She moves on the
stage manipulating the brass plate, with the feet kept
on its rim and doing some hand movements without spilling
a drop of water on the ground thus astounding the audience.
from Bhama Kalapam, the other famous dance dramas are
Gollakalapam by Bhagavatha Ramayya, Prahlada Charitam
by Tirumala Narayanacharyalu, Sashirekha Parinaya etc.
The make up and costumes are characteristic of the art.
There is nothing elaborate in the costumes and the makeup
is not so heavy. The important characters have different
make up and the female characters wear ornaments and
jewellery such as Rakudi (head ornament), Chandra Vanki
(arm ornament), Adda Bhasa and Kasina Sara (neck ornament)
and a long plait decorated with flowers and jewellery.
The music in Kuchipudi is classical Karnatic. The mridanga,
violin and a clarinet are the common instruments employed
Kuchipudi like Bharatanatyam has undergone many changes.
The present day dancers having advanced training in
Kuchipudi style, present this art in their own various
individual ways. There are presently only two melams,
or professional troupes of male performers. The bulk
of the dancers are woman. In its present day dispensation,
Kuchipudi has come to be reduced from a dance drama
to a dance, from an uplifting theatre experience to
a routine stage affair.
is the traditional dance form of Orissa and owes its
origin to the temple dances of the devadasis (temple
dancers). Possibly, the oldest classical dance form
in the country, Odissi has been mentioned in inscriptions,
depicted on scultures, in temples like the Brahmeswara
and the dancing hall of the Sun Temple at Konark. In
the 1950s, the entire dance form was revitalised thanks
to the Abhinaya Chandrika and sculpted dance poses found
While the form is curvaceous, concentrating on the tribhang
or the division of the body into three parts, head,
bust and torso; the mudras and the expressions are similar
to those of Bharatnatyam. Odissi performances are replete
with lores of the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, Lord
Krishna. It is a soft, lyrical classical dance which
depicts the ambience of Orissa and the philosophy of
its most popular deity, Lord Jagannath.
is based on the popular devotion to Lord Krishna and
the verses of the Sanskrit play Geet Govinda are used
to depict the love and devotion to God. The Odissi dancers
use their head, bust and torso in soft flowing movements
to express specific moods and emotions.
between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea, Kerala
has always enjoyed a certain geographical isolation
which helped the people of this fascinating strip of
land to develop a culture, a way of life and theatrical
arts distinctly their own. Since Kathakali was a jealously
guarded male preserve, Mohiniyaattam was specially created
for female dancers.Mohiniyaattam is a distinctive dance
form of Kerala. According to Hindu mythology Lord Vishnu
took the form of Mohini, the divine enchantress. Thats
how the dance form got its name. This dance-form was
different from the other performing arts of Kerala mainly
in two respects. Firstly, the dominantly religious atmosphere
of the other classical dance-styles is absent in Mohiniyaattam.
Secondly, it did not flourish in temple-precincts like
Bharathanatyam Odissi, or Kuchipudi.
swinging steps and the swinging movement of the torso
from side to side are traits of mohiniattam. Rhythmic
variations called 'choll~' based on patterns of rhythm
syllables are an integral part of the vocal accompaniment.
And this is gracefully rendered by the dancer with beautiful
gestures and footwork.
is a dance of sheer enchantment, its purpose being overtly
sensual. This classical style was born out of a clever
fusion of the highly stylized and male-monopolized Kathakali
with the rigid Bharathanatyam. Though it shows deep
affinities with both these styles, it has developed
as a distinct dance-form with its own personality. Like
Bharathanatyam, Mohiniyaattam is primarily intended
as a solo dance to be performed by girls only, and its
technical structure is quite similar to the former.
At the same time, the great influence of Kathakali movements
has given it a much greater dramatic, emotional impact.
was, in many respects, a rebellion against the austere
disciplines of Bharathanatyam and Kathakali, and it
represents one aspect of the blossoming of the Malayali
genius in the realm of arts. It was an attempt to secularise
a temple-dance, and to infuse lyricism and individuality
into what was mainly a theatrical tradition. The dance
is openly erotic and the eyes in particular, are used
with obvious coquetry. But Mohini (enchantress) who
casts the spell of her Maya on the spectators, "only
enchants, she never allures". While the Bharathanatyam
dancer has to "subjugate her personality into the
mainstream of Bhakthi, the Mohiniyaattam dancer strives
to project her vivacious personality" and to reflect
the Maya (illusory) or Mohini-roopam of Lord Vishnu
which charms everyone.
in the far north eastern corner of India is a secluded
and picturesque valley enclosed by mountain ranges.
In this almost complete isolation was born one of India's
richest classical dance forms: Manipuri.
Performed still in temples and religious occasions,
inextricably woven into the lives of the people of Manipur,
this dance form is a very much living tradition. A genuine
Manipuri dance performance offers a glimpse of a rare
and ancient civilization still extant.
style is multifaceted, ranging from the softest feminine
to the obviously vigorous masculine. Dignified grace
is to be found in every aspect and the range it offers
in technique, rhythmics and tempo makes a Manipuri recital
an absorbing and exhilarating experience.
dance is a generic name and covers all the dance forms
of this land. According to legend, Lord Shiva and his
consort Parvati danced in the valleys of Manipuri to
the accompaniment of the Ghandharvas to the celestial
light of Mani (jewel) from the head of the Atishesha,
a serpant and that is how it has come to be called Manipuri.