To list the most popular Indian classical dance forms, we need to do a comprehensive scan of the ‘rich cultural heritage’ of India as a country. This (rich culture heritage) can be clearly seen via the diversity in the dance forms (i.e. classical and folk) prevalent throughout the country. Now there are a few dance styles that have been officially recognized as “classical” by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, and the prestigious ‘Sangeet Natak Akademi’. So here is presenting a list of six major classical Indian dance forms.
Bharatanatayam dance is a classical dance form performed primarily by women that was developed during the second century in the state of Tamil Nadu. The fundamentals of this dance form can be found in a sacred ancient sanskrit called Natya Shastra. Furthermore, a “Bharatanatyam” dance performance involves a combination of complex feet movements as well use of hand gestures and facial expression (i.e. eyes and face muscles) accompanied by “Carnatic” music. In addition, this dance form (similar to other Indian classical dances) is essentially used to narrate popular mythological folklore.
Originating from the North of India, and derived from the Sanskrit word “Katha”, meaning “story”, is a classical dance form known as “Kathak”. Furthermore, this classical dance consists of three distinct styles that have evolved over time in three different cities: Jaipur, Banaras, and Lucknow. Furthermore, this dance style is essentially based on fluid rhythmic foot movements, hand gestures, and facial expressions. It is also said that this dance form has been passed on from one generation to another verbally. Apparently, it was during the British Raj that this dance form was made fun of, and a ban was imposed.
Developed mainly in “temples” in the state of Kerala is an Indian classical dance form known as Kathakali. According to the cultural history of the state, this dance style first evolved during the 17th century from a form of theatre known as “Kuttiyattam”. Furthermore, a Kathakali performance basically consists of a combination of (like other classical Indian dance forms) feet movements, hand gestures, and facial expressions especially the use of the eyes. In addition, this dance form is also known renowned for extremely “colourful and flamboyant costumes” that includes elaborate makeup as well as facial masks.
Kuchipudi dance is a classical dance form that originated in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh and was created by a saint named “Tirtha Narayana Yati” and his disciple, “Siddhendra Yogi.“The root of this classical dance form, like several others in India, is deeply embedded in the ancient pious Sanskrit text called “Natya Shastra”. It also essentially revolves around two aspects, i.e., foot movement and facial expression in unison with appropriate hand gestures. Furthermore, this form of classical Indian dancing (like Bharatanatyam) also comprises “Carnatic” music. In addition, this is also a classical Indian dance form in which both males and females are permitted to perform.
A traditional dance form called Odissi originates from the state of Odisha, located on the eastern coast of India. This form of dance essentially combines “abhinaya” (expressions) and mudras (hand gestures and sign language). Furthermore, it also comprises three basic dance positions, i.e., Samabhanga, Abhanga, and Tribhanga. In addition, this dance also consists of three primary “mudras” (hand gestures), which include the Asamyukta Hasta, Samyukta Hasta, and Nritya Hasta.
The Manipuri dance is based on the ‘Raslila’ – a dance-drama involving Lord Krishna and Radha. This dance, which originated from Manipur, a state which is located in the northeast of the country, is supposed to have first come into existence during the early 18th century. Furthermore, this dance comprises graceful body movements with greater emphasis given to the use of hand and upper body gestures. In addition, this dance form consists of unique costumes that include, a decorated long skirt known as “Kumil” worn by the female performer, while the male dancers wear an attire known as dhoti or dhotra, a pleated broadcloth that is usually tied around the waist.
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