Dance is a natural expression of human emotions of love and hate, joy and sadness. In india, it is considered as a medium to connect to the God and an intrinsic part of religious rituals. The classical dances of India trace their origin to the temples studded in different parts of the country.

The Sangeet Natak Akademi (The National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama) has given the coveted ‘classical’ status to the following eight dance forms. Gradually, the mesmerising sound of ghungroos and the elegance of the dance performances have left the world awe-struck.

 

Bharata Natyam

According to some scholars, the name is ascribed to Bha, Ra and Ta standing for Bhava (emotions), Raga (melody) and Tala (rhythm). This ancient dance form is world renowned for its serenity, poise and beauty. It has been nurtured in Tamil Nadu and derived from the sadir– the solo dance performances by the devdasis, the temple dancers. Over the years, the devdasis fell into disrepute, and consequently the art form too languished. Fighting against the prejudice, E. Krishna Iyer and Rukumini Devi revitalized the ancient art form.
Bharata Natyam is considered to be a fire-dance — the mystic manifestation of the metaphysical element of fire in the human body. The body is shaped as a triangle during the dance, with knees always bent. It follows Abhinaya Darpanam, Natya Sastra and other Sanskrit texts for the theory part.

Kathak

Literally means, the storytellers, the dance form is believed to have its origin in the Rasleela of Brajbhoomi. Influenced by Vaishnavism of the bhakti movement, the central concept is Krishna and Radha. The dance was originally associated with the temples and accompanied by keertans. The dancers recite verses from the epics with gestures and music. Gradually, it assumed a grandeur form imbibing the Persian costumes and dancing style during the Mughal era. The dance form was regenerated from its lascivious styles in the 20th efforts with the efforts of Lady Leela Sokhey.
The dance form is followed in Gharanas or schools- each having its distinctive style and splendour. Kathak involves an intricate footwork and pirouettes.

Kuchipudi

The dance form is named after the village of its origin, Kuchelapuram in Andhra Pradesh. The Kuseelavas were groups of actors going from village to village. The dance form is traced to this dance-drama enacted by brahmins in temples. Traditionally, it was a male preserve. Under the impact of bhakti movement, the themes came to be based on the Bhagavat Purana. The Vijayanagara kings patronized the Kuchipudi dancers and gave land grants to them.
Gradually, the devotional element is being replaced by the secular with the predominance of sringar (women adornment) and erotic flavor. The dance form has the sensuousness of the Odissi dance and the geometric line of the Bharatnatyam.

Mohiniyattam

The dance form is believed to have originated in the early 19th century during the reign of Maharaja Swati Thirunal of Travanacore. It has elements of both Bharatnatyam and Kathakali.
Literally means ‘Dance of the Enchantress’, Mohiniyattam does have an enthralling quality. The white and gold costume, the hairstyle and the highly graceful movements in medium tempo bring out the aesthetic effect. Apart from mythology, Mohiniyattam perform on the themes from nature.

Odissi

According to the cultural historians, the earliest evidence of dance in India is presented in the Udagiri and Khandagiri caves where panels are carved of music and dance forms. The dance form too has its origin in the temple dance of devdasis. Later too, the dance sculptures adorned the walls of the Brahmeswara temple and Sun temple of Konark.
The dance form has been aptly called the ‘mobile sculpure’, for its grace, sensuousness and lyrical dance style. The tribhanga (three bends) posture- so well depicted in the sculptures- is innate to it.

Manipuri

One of the most beautiful dance styles of India, Manipuri dance is nurtured in the pristine mountains of the Indian state of Manipur.
The important features of the Manipuri dance form are the Sankirtana and the Raas Leela, based on the devotional theme of Krishna and Radha. The vibrant costumes of the dancers stitched of various hues and colours add to the charm and radiance of the performance. The spectators are mesmerized and swayed along the ascending tempo.

Sattriya

The classical dance form comes from the picturesque land of Assam. It was traditionally performed by bhokots (male monks) in monasteries as part of their daily rituals or to mark a special occasion or festival. Now, the dance has both male and female performers with themes also much diversified.

Kathakali

Born in the temples of Kerala, the main sources of Kathakali (katha-story and kali- drama) were Kudiattam and Krishnattam, the folk drama traditions. It is best suited to an open air stage against the lush greenery of Kerala’s landscape. It generally requires no props, and the actors use their expressions and gestures to suggest the scene.
The dance calls for strenuous training and an elaborate make-up with many colours, each having a peculiar emotion attached, e.g. green facial make-up indicates nobility and divinity.