(Last Updated on : 23/08/2013)
"Dancing is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of the arts, because it is not mere translation or abstraction from life; it is life itself" -- Havelock Ellis
Human beings have, more than often, chosen to express their emotions through the mystical representation of dance. Dance is, therefore, recognised as the earliest art and the most eternal form of communication, which directly appeals to the eyes. Dance is such an intricate art that it brings out the innermost feelings and at the same time portrays the cultural aspects of a civilization. Indian dances are varied. While most of the Indian dances are traditionally constrained and unique in their own ways; some are religiously bound and some are just a form of expressing emotions.
Origin of Indian Dance
Since time immemorial the sacramental view of life has permeated all forms of Indian art. Thus, the Indian dances have sprung from the religious urges of her people. The Hindu dance is conceived as an expression of spiritual energy on the earth plane through the senses and intelligence. Religiosity and philosophies are, therefore, almost inseparable aspects of Indian dance. In mythology, in folklores, in fables and in puranas Gods and Goddess are mentioned as great connoisseur of dance. In India, the Nataraja, dancing Lord Shiva
, is the supreme manifestation of Indian dance. Shiva's cosmic dance, Tandava
encompasses creation, preservation and destruction and this thought has been embedded in Hindu rituals since remote past. The dark and fierce dance of Goddess Kali
symbolising destruction is a significant part of Hindu religion.
Development of Indian Dances
Realistically it is certainly not an overstatement to say that dance was a part of the representation of dramatic theatre in ancient India, primarily in the Dravidian society. There are evidences of the popularity of dance in the society of India from the Mesolithic age. Archaeological evidence unfolds the fact that the dance heritage in India is indeed 5000 years old. A dancing girl figurine was found in the wreck of Mohenjodaro, which must be made in approximately 2nd Century B.C. Many group-dancing sequences are illustrated in delicate rock paintings of Bhimbetka Caves of Madhya Pradesh
. Even dancing figurine in abundance is also seen in the primitive cave paintings and also in the sculptures of temple walls and stupas. These clearly indicate the antiquity of Indian dance.
The saga of Indian dance is the story of changing tradition in India. What was once just a religious fervour later gained the status of an art form to communicate the innermost feelings. The dance form which was once restricted to temples in the form of Devadasi dance then gradually broke the pits and barriers of the temple walls and reached the courts of the kings and nobles. What developed then as an expression of artistic presentation of rasa and nritya was termed as Indian classical dance. The sensual yet spiritual essence of classical dance in India for the very first time silhouetted emotions like Bhava, Anubhava and Rasa whilst delineating the harmony of Indian aesthetics. All Indian dance forms are, thus, structured around the nine rasa
s- hasya, krodha, bhibasta, shoka, bhaya, viram, karuna, adbhuta and shanta.
Style of Indian Dance
With a sublime history and laced with its sheer intricacies Indian dance style brings out the innermost feelings and emotion whilst depicting the cultural aspects of the age-old civilization of India. Based on the style, dash, intricacies and ‚lan, Indian dance can be broadly classified into four types like, Classical Indian dance, Indian Folk dance, Tribal dance and the modern Indian dance. Natyashastra however offers a distinct reason behind the origin of Indian dance as an art form. According to Natyashastra once the Gods asked Brahma the creator to create a pastime for the Gods. And thus drama was created of which dance was the elementary base. Brahma then took words (pathya) from the Rig Veda
, Geeta (chant and music) from Sama Veda
, Rasa (emotional element and sentiment) from the Atharva Veda
and gesture (abhinaya
) from the Yajur Veda
and created the dance drama for the pastime of Gods.
Forms of Indian Dance
The journey of Indian dance as an expressive art form is, thus, long yet rich. However, the common root to all Indian dance forms can be traced to Bharata Muni's Natyashastra
, the doctrine of the style and technique of dance in India.
Not just the elegance of the classical Indian dance, but India can boast of her myriad numbers of folk, tribal and traditional dance form, each contouring the specialty of the regions of India whilst showcasing the rich Indian heritage. Folk dance is a primitive, tribal, or ethnic form of dance in India, sometimes important for the survival of some ancient ceremony or festival. Folk dancing in India can be defined as a style of dancing that originated among the ordinary people and it is viewed as more of a social concern activity rather than competitive one. The pulse of traditional and regional dance of India also echoes the heritage of India and is particularly famous in its areas of practice
Originating in the hinterlands of antiquity Indian dance has witnessed continuous alteration to gain the chic contour. The Indian dancers with their style and ‚lan have further reshaped Indian dances to a great extent. The Indian Dancers have acquired a global fame in their respective spheres. With sheer dedication, emotion, creativity and originality the Indian dancers have aided Indian dance in taking those long strides. Alarmel Valli the popular exponent of the Pandanallur tradition in Bharata Natyam. Mallika Sarabhai one of the leading exponents of Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi, Mamata Shankar, Anita Ratnam, Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam, Pandit Birju Maharaj and many more has delineated the richness of Indian dance.
Indian Dance Academies
The Indian dance academies have further aided in contouring the structure of dance style in India. Orissa Dance Academy is an important institution in Bhubaneswar for training in Odissi dance. Mamata Shankar Ballet Troupe is a Kolkata based dance institute, teaching and performing choreographic presentations on various contemporary dance forms. Sri Krishna Kumar Dance academy is a well-known institution in India, teaching Bharatnatyam, Vocal music, Nattuvangam and Kuchipudi. Other than the mentioned ones, there are numerous other schools and training centers, teaching Indian dance forms.
With a copious tradition Indian dance takes human figure as its basic instrument of expression, since it has a message for its audience that advises strongly to live life in the path of righteousness, prosperity and fame. Indian dance amidst its expression and poise therefore reflects the deep philosophy and the religious mood of India to a great extent.