DANCE FORMS OF INDIA
Bharatanatyam is the most popular of Indian dances and belongs to the South Indian state of Tamilnadu. Its antiquity is well established. In the past it was practised ad performed in the temples by a class of dancers known as the devadasis. It was a part of the religious rituals and has a long and hoary past. The kings and the princely courts patronised the temples, as well as the various traditions sustaining the dance form.
The salient features of Bharatanatyam are movements conceived in space mostly either along straight lines or triangles. In terms of geometrical designs, the dancer appears to weave a series of triangles besides several geometrical patterns.
In nritta (pure dance) to the chosen time cycle and a raga (melody), a dancer executes patterns that reveal the architectonic beauty of the form with a series of dance units called jathis or teermanams. The torso is used as a unit, the legs are in a semi-plie form and the stance achieves the basic posture called araimandi. The nritta numbers include Alarippu, Jatiswaram and Tillana, which are abstract items not conveying and specific meaning except that of joyous abandon with the dancer creating variegated forms of staggering visual beauty.
In nritya, a dancer performs to a poem, creating a parallel kinetic poetry in movement, registering subtle expressions on the face and the entire body reacts to the emotions, evoking sentiments in the spectator for relish - the rasa. The numbers are varnam, which has expressions as well as pure dance; padams, javalis and shlokas. The accompanying music is classical Carnatic. The themes are from Indian mythology, the epics and the Puranas.
styles of Chhau exist born from the three different regions of Seraikella
(Bihar), Purulia (West Bengal), and Mayurbhanj (Orissa). Martial movements,
strong rhythmic statements and dynamic use of space are characteristic
Chhau uses masks which is a highly developed craft in the region. The barren
land with its tribal inhabitants and multi-layered influences of Vedic
literature, Hinduism and martial folk-lore have all combined to shape the
Purulia Chhau dances which have only one message - the triumph of good
Also, to the lyrics, expressions are shown evoking the rasa or emotion in the spectators, who, if the musical traditions are shared along with the songs, enjoy it by expressing their appreciation with a round of applause.
The themes of Krishna, Radha, Shiva, Parvati and mythological characters find a prominent place in the Kathak dancer’s repertoire. Nowadays, experiments are being carried out with group choreography exploring the dance form. Both men and women perform Kathak which is also used to present dance dramas of historical tales and contemporary events.
The macro and micro movements of the face, the movements of the eyebrows, the eyeballs, the cheeks, the nose and the chin are minutely worked out and various emotions are registered in a flash by a Kathakali actor-dancer. Often men play the female roles, though of late women have taken to Kathakali.
The pure dance element in Kathakali is limited to kalasams, decorative dance movements alternating with an expressional passage where the actor impersonates a character, miming to the liberetto sung by the musician. A cylindrical drum called chenda, a drum called maddalam held horizontally, cymbals and a gong form the musical accompaniment, and two vocalists render the songs. Using typical music known as Sopanam, Kathakali creates a world of its own.
most striking feature of Kathakali is its overwhelming dramatic quality.
But its characters never speak. It is danced to the musical compositions,
involving dialogues, narration and continuity. It employs the lexicon of
a highly developed hand-gesture language which enhances the facial expressions
and unfolds the text of the drama.
Performances are traditionally held in the Koothambalam which are special theatres attached to temples. The Sanskrit play selected for the performance usually takes over several days. Female dancers called Nangiars deliver the invocatory songs and also participate. The use of the tirashila or curtain, different colours for the face to depict characters and elaborate ornaments are all similar to Kathakali. The mizhavu is a special drum used as an accompaniment for Koodiyattam performances.
repertoire consists of Sanskrit dramas like Ascharyachudamani of Shaktibadra,
Subhadradhananjeyan of Kulasekara Varman, Abhisekha Nataka and Swapnavasavadatta
of Bhasa, Kalyana Saugandhikam of Mahendra Vikrama and Bhagavadajjukiyam
of Bodhayana which are the popular favourites. With disciplined and
dedicated performers like Ammanur Madhava Chakyar, Kocchukuttan Chakyar
and Kitangur Kuttappan Chakyar, this ancient classical form has a growing
legion of students and afficionados in India and elsewhere.
The songs are mimed with alluring expressions, swift looks and fleeting emotions evoking the rasa. A special number in the Kuchipudi repertoire is called tarangam, in which a dancer balances herself on the rim of a brass plate and executes steps to the beat of a drum. At times she places a pot full of water on her head and dances on the brass plate. The song accompanying this number is from the well known Krishna Leela Tarangini, a text which recounts the life and events of Lord Krishna.
expressional numbers a dancer sometimes chooses to enact the role of Satyabhama,
the proud and self-assured queen of Lord Krishna, from the dance-drama
Bhama Kalapam. She goes through various stages of love. When in separation
from Lord Krishna, she recalls the happy days of union and pines for him.
At last they are reunited when she sends him a letter. One more number
from the Kuchipudi repertoire that deserves mention is Krishna Shabdam,
in which a milkmaid invites Krishna for a rendezvous in myriads of ways
giving full scope for the dancer to display the charms of a woman.
Besides Rasalilas, there are other dances called Natasankirtana, in which a group of men play cymbals and dance in a circle or in two rows singing praises of God. In Pung Cholom, the dancers play upon pung, the drum, and dance while playing the intricate time cycles, executing somersaults and breathtaking acrobatic feats. In group dances like Lai Haraoba, the merry-making for the gods, the dancers perform various steps and weave patterns, involving various choreographic compositions. From the corpus of Manipuri dances, one sees on the contemporary stage solo, duet and group performances. The music is typical of the region and is influenced by the kirtan school of Bengal due to the influence of Vaishnavism.
Lai Haraoba, Choloms, Pung Cholom, Natasankirtana, Khubak Ishai and other
Manipuri dances share both nritta and nritya aspects and are edited judiciously
for the concert platform to suit the urban audience. However, to enjoy
Manipuri, one should see the dances in their natural setting. Gossamer
veils, cylindrical mirrored skirts and ornaments dazzle the audiences with
their colourful costumes which create a dream-like effect.
Mohini Attam has enjoyed a revival in recent times and is the most popular dance form among the young aspirants in Kerala. It has a format which follows the Bharatanatyam form and the repertoire has common names. In nritta a number called Cholukattu consists of pure dance movements at the end of which is tagged a poem that is in praise of a deity and also narrates the story of the Ramayana in a nutshell. The mnemonic syllables are sung instead of being uttered by the musician. Another item of pure dance is Tillana which follows the musical mode of Bharatanatyam with classical Carnatic music. However, of late, kerala's Sopana music is being employed for Mohini Attam and the repertoire has also been enlarged with the choreography maintaining the typical movements of this graceful style.
nritya, the padams are mimed with facial expressions and hand gestures
and the themes are drawn from mythology. The nayika or heroine longs for
union with her beloved. A confidante goes and conveys the message to the
lover and the nayika describes the pangs of separation. A varnam follows
the structure of a Bharatanatyam varnam dwelling upon the narration, impersonation
and alternating with pure dance. Though the dance units in Mohini
Attam are limited, the quintessential grace and the measured movements
are its distinct features.
In nritta the numbers consist of batu nritya, pallavi and mokhya. In batu nritya the dancer strikes poses holding various instruments like veena, flute, cymbals and drums and the choreography of this number reveals the imagination of the choreographer-gurus. Pallavi means to elaborate, and a dancer performs pure dance to a chosen time cycle and a musical raga (melody). Various body postures similar to temple sculptures are woven in this number. In mokhya, before the dance concludes, a dancer employs various dance units creating arresting visuals. In nritya, the songs from the celebrated Gita Govinda of poet Jayadeva written in the 12th century A.D., are used by dancers for expressional numbers.
exquisite Sanskrit poetry and the sculptural movements to the typical Odissi
music almost cast a spell on the spectators. Songs of other Oriya poets
are also danced with subtle expressions, replete with emotions. In its
revival period Odissi has received enthusiastic support from the young
exponents and often one finds Bharatanatyam dancers also mastering the
Odissi technique and performing both the dance forms though while doing
so, they maintain the clearcut differences in the execution of the movements.
In recent years, group choreographic presentations and dance dramas are
also attempted in order to bring out the full glory and sculptural wealth
of Odissi which is truly a visually fascinating performance style.
The info about Bharatanatyam, Chhau, Kathak, Kathakali, Koodiyattam, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Mohinattam, Odissi have been provided from "Narthaki - A web directory of Classical Indian Dances"