Bharatanatyam, a pre-eminent Indian classical dance form presumably the oldest classical dance heritage of India is regarded as mother of many other Indian classical dance forms. Conventionally a solo dance performed only by women, it was initiated in the Hindu temples of Tamil Nadu and eventually flourished in South India. Theoretical base of this form traces back to ‘Natya Shastra’, the ancient Sanskrit Hindu text on the performing arts. A form of illustrative anecdote of Hindu religious themes and spiritual ideas emoted by dancer with excellent footwork and impressive gestures its performance repertoire includes nrita, nrityaandnatya.
Kathak is one of the main genres of ancient Indian classical dance and is traditionally regarded to have originated from the travelling bards of North India referred as Kathakars or storytellers. These Kathakars wandered around and communicated legendary stories via music, dance and songs quite like the early Greek theatre. The genre developed during the Bhakti movement, the trend of theistic devotion which evolved in medieval Hinduism. The Kathakars communicate stories through rhythmic foot movements, hand gestures, facial expressions and eye work. This performing art that incorporates legends from ancient mythology and great Indian epics, especially from the life of Lord Krishna became quite popular in the courts of North Indian kingdoms.
Kalbelia is one of the most sensual dance forms that was born from the cradle of rich Indian culture. The dance is mainly performed by the women folks of the tribe . Nowadays the dance form is accepted as a traditional folk dance of India and is being taught and modernized using contemporary music. The history behind this dance is that of a serpent yogic dancer who traveled the desert and kings found his blessings divine. The dance is famous in Udaipur, Ajmer, Chittorgarh in Rajasthan.
Ghoomar is a traditional folk dance synonymous with the Indian state of Rajasthan. The dance is performed by women with elan and grace and includes swaying movements, accentuated with elegant traditional outfits. It has gained a lot of recognition and has been ranked as one of the world’s best local dances. Also known as Jhumar, this traditional dance was originally started by the Bhil community and performed for worshipping goddess Saraswati.
Bhavai is Rajasthan’s ritualistic dance, which is usually performed by women belonging to Kalbelia, Jat, Meena, Bhil or Kumhar tribal communities of the state. The dance involves women balancing eight to nine brass pitchers or earthen pots on their head as they dance and twirl with their feet on the perimeter of a brass plate or on the top of a glass. The dance is accompanied by male performers singing and playing instruments, such as harmonium, sarangi and dholak. Because of its high level of difficulty and complexity, it takes years for the performer to master the dance form.
Cheri is another ritualistic dance that primarily belongs to the Saini community of Ajmer and Gujjar’s of Kishangarh. Enacted by women, it is usually performed on special occasions, such as the birth of a male child, marriage or festival. It symbolises joy as well as representing the ritual of collecting water in chari, which means pot. The women are attired in traditional outfit and dance while balancing brass chari on their heads, along with a lighted lamp in it. The dance is accompanied by sounds of dholak, harmonium andnagada.
Lavani which is well known for its powerful rhythm is one of the most popular folk dance forms of India. It is a genre of music popular in the state of Maharashtra and is a combination of traditional song and dance, which is particularly performed to the beats of Dholak. This dance is also practiced in southern Madhya Pradesh. Lavani dance art form has contributed largely to the development of Marathi folk theatre. Lavani can also be defined as a romantic number sung by a woman who is waiting for her lover to accept her.
Koli is one of the most popular dance form of Maharashtra that derives its name from the fisher folk of Maharashtra – Kolis. These fishermen are famous for their distinct identity and lively dances. Their dances consists elements from their occupation that is fishing. The dance incorporates elements that this community is most familiar with – sea and fishing. The dance is performed by both men and women divided into two groups, where fishermen stand in two rows holding oars in their hands. The dancers move in unison, portraying the movement of the rowing of a boat.
Vaglya-Murali dance too has religious associations. The dance recapitulates the tradition of Marathas to worship the weapons on the eve of Dussera festival, in the name of Lord Malhari, who is considered to be an aspect of Lord Shiva. The name of the dance is derived from the terms Vaghya, the male actor-dancers and Murali, the female dancers who used to be dedicated to Lord Shiva in the past. A duet between the Vaghya and the Murali develops into a full fledged dance to the accompaniment of percussion instruments and bells.