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Folk Dances

Folk Dances

Indian folk and tribal dances are an expression of joy. Folk dances are performed on every possible occasion, to celebrate the arrival of seasons, birth of a child, a wedding and festivals. The dances are simple in terms of steps or movements but burst with verve and vitality. Men and women perform some dances exclusively, while in some performances men and women dance together. On most occasions, the dancers sing themselves, while being accompanied by artists on the instruments. Each form of dance has a specific costume. Most costumes are flamboyant with extensive jewellery.

The north-east part of the country is the home for over 60 tribes, and each tribe has its own range of tribal dances. The dances of the Nagas and the Bihus of Assam are performed to celebrate spring and harvesting.
The main folk dance of Gujarat, the Dandiya, is performed using sticks. Each performer holds two sticks, which they strike alternately to the right and left while the group dances. They also move diagonally, clockwise, anti-clockwise, as they strike the sticks.

The Bhangra of Punjab is performed by men, to the rhythm of the drum. The dance includes a wide range of athletic leaps and jumps. Dancers stand on each other's shoulder while dancing to the music.

There are hundreds of Indian folk and tribal dances. Each region of India has its own folk dance. Both men and women perform the bamboo dance of Mizoram. While the men hold the bamboo, the women folk dance between the bamboo sticks. In this performance, the sound of the bamboo hitting each other is the rhythm.
In the south, the dummy horse dance or the Poikalkuthirai is very famous. Dancers fit dummy legs to their legs and dance to music. Both men and women perform this form of art. In Tamil Nadu, dancers place a karagam or a decorated jug on their heads and dance while balancing the karagam.

While there are numerous folk and tribal dances, they are constantly adapted and innovated. The skill and the imagination of the dances influence the performance.

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Chhau

Chhau

The etymologic root of the word Chhau is traced to the Sanskrit Chhaya or shade, referring to the mask used by the dancers. Others aver, it is derived from the word 'Chauuni' where the pharikhanda (shield and sword) soldiers stayed. The technique of the dance, in fact, draws on steps and gait which stem from the 'Pharikhanda System'. It is basically a martial dance where the mask holds the dominant Rasa while the body creates, projects, and develops the moods. Chhau has three schools: Seraikella in Bihar, Mayurbhanj in Orissa, and Purulia in West Bengal. While all the three Chhau forms are danced by men, Mayurbhanj uses no masks but the others do. The themes are based on mythology, everyday life, aspects of nature or just a mood or emotion. PuruliaChhau, however, has a single focus - good triumphs over evil. The music is based on Hindustani Ragas and the accompaniment is with a Nagara, a huge kettledrum, Dhol, a cylindrical drum, and Shehnai or reed pipes. The strenuous nature of the dance restricts performances to brief periods but, in PuruliaChhau, a single item could last 40 minutes and a performance, night long.

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Kathak

Kathak

Kathaks were originally story tellers who used to dance to illustrate 'Kathas' or stories. They were attached to the temples of North India. With the advent of Muslim rule, Kathak went from the temple to the courts. Consequently, Kathak flowered as a form in the Hindu courts of Rajasthan and the Muslims courts of Delhi, Agra and Lucknow. Court patronage led to the evolution of Kathak into a highly technical and stylised art with emphasis on the solo performers and their virtuosity. Gradually, the two schools became distinctively different: the Jaipur Gharana (ideology in this context) focussed on layakari, or rhythmic wizardly; while the LucknowGharana expounded bhava or moods and emotions. However, both schools have Radha& Krishna as their central theme.Rhythm, timing and so footwork are the main planks of Kathak. The musical accompaniment to the 200 ghungrus or bells on the dancer's feet, are the sarangi and the tabla. Kathak is a true fusion of the Hindu and Muslim genius in art and it the only classical dance of North India.

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Manipuri

Manipuri

There is no authoritative record of the history of Manipur's dance and music prior to the 18th century AD. However, the lasting developments in technique and methods took place during the time of Jai Singh (1764-89), who was a great devotee of Lord Krishna and a follower of Vaishnavism.Among the legendary and mythological tales, the Rasa Lila, dance performed by Shiva and Parvati and Lai Haraoba of Khamba and Thoibi, the celebrated lovers, deserves special mention.In the Ras Lila, the movements are extremely graceful coupled with soft and light steps in which the heels never touch down.

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Odissi

Odissi

A dance form born in the state of Orissa, Odissi manifested in temple sculptures from the 2nd century BC, practiced and enriched by the Devadasis. With the construction of the Jagannath Temple in Puri in the 12th century, the practice of dedicating devadasis in the service of the temple was initiated and continues to this day. At once sensuous and spiritual, the dance form has the ability to portray erotic sentiments in a deeply reverential manner. Odissi is a highly stylised dance with tribhanga or the three-bend attitude of Hindu sculpture. The bhava or feeling is chaste and orthodox, with flashes of heightened dramatisation. The accompanying music is pure and classical, with graces of both the Hindustani and the Carnatic styles. The instruments traditionally used are the mandala (drums), gini (small cymbals) and the flute.

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Kathakali

Kathakali

Kerala’s Kathakali, heroic, majestic and epic in character, is not more than 300 years old, though its roots can be traced to 1,500 years earlier. It symbolises the blending of the Aryan and Dravidian cultures and is thought to have evolved out of the various ancient theatre traditions of the region like Krishnattam, Ramanattam, Koodiyattam, Mudiyyetu and Teyyam. MahakaviVallathol of Cherutoorthi (Palakkad) contributed greatly in the revival of this art by forming Kalamandalam, the famous teaching institution, set up in the 1930s. Mostly based on the mythology and the themes of Ramayana and Mahabharata, a Kathakali performance opens with the thunder of drums, which invites the audiences. The performance lasts night long and, till recently, only men were allowed to perform even female roles. As a form of art, Kathakali is a sophisticated spectacle of the supernatural.

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MohiniAttam

MohiniAttam

MohiniAttam is one of the youngest Indian classical dances, and evolved in the 16th century under the patronage of Maharaja Swati Thirunal of Travancore (present day south Kerala).Mohini means a maiden who excites desire and her dance is known as MohiniAttam. From the inception itself, MohiniAttam was conceived as a form of social diversion. The themes of the songs were both religious and social.In the matter of technical format, there are many similarities between MohiniAttam and Bharat Natyamwith the central motif of adavus (gestures) being the same. It is essentially a solo dance and performed by women with tender and graceful body movements belonging to the lasya (extremely feminine and fluid type of dance) style. Hand gestures play an important part as a communication medium.The costume comprises a white sari with gold ornaments on the neck, waist, wrists and a typical hair bun with flowers on the left side of the head.The dominant emotion in MohiniAttam is of shringara (love).

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Kuchipudi

Kuchipudi

The art form takes its name from the village of its birth, in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. Kuchipudi was the result of the Bhakti Movement in the 6th century, when Siddendra Yogi, the progenitor of the form, presented a dance drama with boys from the village of Kuchipudi. Consciously they raised the form above the reach of Devdasi. The boys were committed to an annual presentation of the form and they passed on the techniques to the next generation. So a tradition and a form were born.The performer has to express through the language of gestures, speech and song. The Kuchipudi artiste, apart from being a dancer and an actor has to have a high proficiency in Sanskrit and Telegu languages, music and the texts of performance.Kuchipudi plays are performed in the open air on improvised stages at night. The sutradhar, or the master of ceremonies, plays an integral role introducing characters, providing humour and tying together the performance. The fast paced nature of the dance has made it a popular dramatic form.

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Bharat Natyam

Bharat Natyam

Bharat Natyam, one of the oldest Indian classical dance forms, is in essence of dedicatory dance performed by Devadasis(girls dedicated to a deity or to a temple)in temples, primarily in Tamil Nadu and to a smaller extent in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The dance form evolved around 500 B.C to 500 AD. The key posture of this dance form requires the upper part of the body to be erect, the legs bent halfway down with the knees spread out, and the feet positioned like a half open fan. Practically every part of the body has its distinct movement.The songs used are composed from the poetic literature of Tamil, Telegu, and Sanskrit and, to some extent, Kannada. The accompanying music is in pure Carnatic style.

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  • Folk Dances
  • Chhau
  • Kathak
  • Manipuri
  • Odissi
  • Kathakali
  • MohiniAttam
  • Kuchipudi
  • Bharat Natyam

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