History of Indian Dancers
The very essence of Indian dance can be found prominently in its classical form. Classical dance refers to ‘Natya’, whose theory can be traced back to ‘Natya Shastra’ of Bharat Muni. Indian dance with its distinct flavour of ‘Natya’, ‘leela’, ‘rasa’, and ‘mudra’ has illustrated the rich ethnicity of India since the ancient times. ‘Natya Shastra’ has categorized eight classical dance forms namely ‘Bharatnatyam’, ‘Kathak’, ‘Kathakali’, ‘Kuchipudi’, ‘Manipuri’, ‘Mohiniaattam’, ‘Odissi’ and ‘Sattriya’. These classical dances were performed by the ‘Devadasis’ to gratify the almighty. In the ancient days, dance performances took place inside the sanctum of the temples. However, in the medieval era dance performances were taken to the courts of the kings and the concept of 'Rajanarthakis' developed. Gradually, dance began to be appreciated as a separate art form and Indian Dancers started taking keen interest in this creative field.
Famous Indian Dancers
Following are the famous Indian Dancers:
Uday Shankar: He is known as the Father of Modern Dance in India. He initiated a revitalization movement of classical Indian dances in 1930. He is best known for creating a fusion style of dance, adapting European theatrical techniques to Indian classical dance, instilled with elements of Indian classical, folk, and tribal dance.
Birju Maharaj: Brijmohan Mishra popularly known as Pandit Birju Maharaj is the descendant of Ishwari Prasad, who is said to be the first celebrated Kathak teacher. He is famous for his experiments with dance-drama and Kathak, infusing the two in exclusive and unseen ways. He has also worked in Bollywood films and composed the music and sang for two dance sequences in the Satyajit Ray's ‘Shatranj ke Khilari’.
Mrinalini Sarabhai: She is credited with bringing Bharatnatyam out of its ‘Devdaasi’ shadows. She’s the pioneer of making ‘Bharatnatyam’ an acceptable dance form outside temples. Along with her husband, the legendary Vikram Sarabhai, she started the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts, and has contributed immensely to Gujarat's classical dance scene.
Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra: He is a master in the domain of Odissi dance. For ten long years, Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra was closely associated with Odissi Research Centre in Bhubaneshwar and made priceless contributions to the work of Odissi style. He has taken Odissi dance to new and dizzying heights.
Mallika Sarabhai: She is a celebrated Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam dancer and is the daughter of dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai. She took over the reins of ‘Darpana’ and also launched ‘Darpana for Development’.
Rukmini Arundale: She is one of the pioneers of the revitalization of Indian classical dance and also trained in ballerina. Rukmini Devi promoted ‘Bharatnatyam’ and had an enormous role to play in the upliftment of ‘Bharatnatyam’. She is also featured on India Today’s list of ‘100 People Who Shaped India’.
Sonal Mansingh: She is one of the most celebrated exponents of Odissi and Bharatnatyam. She founded the Centre for Indian Classical Dances (CICD) in New Delhi in 1977. She’s also trained in Chhau and Indian music.
Singhajit Singh: He is one of the famous Manipuri dancers who played a vital role in popularizing the Manipuri dance among youth. He founded his own dance institution called the Manipuri Nrityashram in 1998. He’s known for incorporating innovative techniques as well as other Manipuri dance forms such as ‘Thang-ta’, ‘Nata-sankirtana’, ‘Lai-haraoba’ and ‘Rasleela’ into the traditional Manipuri structure.
Balasaraswati: She was the first to perform Bharatnatyam outside South India and has showcased ‘Bharatnatyam’ across the globe. Her performances have won the appreciation of dance maestros from around the world including Shambhu Maharaj, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Martha Graham among others.
Sunanda Nair: She is one of the prominent Indian classical dancers who essayed a key role in popularising Mohiniyattam. She is the first one to receive a Master's degree in Mohini Attam from Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalay affiliated to the University of Mumbai. Nair has won many awards for her immense contribution in the field of classical dancing.
Chinta Krishnamurthy: Chinta Krishnamurthy was a well known performer and guru of Kuchipudi dance. He played a crucial part, along with Banda Kanakalingeswara Rao in establishing the Shri Siddhendra Kalakshetram in Kuchipudi. He was bestowed with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.
Poushali Chatterjee: She has choreographed a number of dance dramas, the chief among them being ‘Krishnaleela’, Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Kalmrigaya’ and ‘Maharshi Bhagyachandra’, a dance drama based on the life of the pioneer of Manipuri Dance. In 1996, Poushali opened her own institution, Nandanik Manipuri Dance Academy.
Guru Kunju Kurup: He was one of the most famous Kathakali artists, who was a Padma Bhushan awardees of 1971. He succeeded in creating fresh aesthetics of Kathakali acting-dancing through inspiring presentation of ‘rasa’ and ‘bhava abhinaya’.
Sougaijam Thanil Singh: He is an Indian classical dancer, famous for his expertise in the classical dance forms of Manipuri and Nata Sankirtana. He has performed on many stages in India and abroad. He is a member of the Ministry of Culture of the Government of Indiaand a recipient of the 1980 Manipuri State Kala Academy Award.
Guru Bipin Singh: He was a choreographer and teacher of Manipuri dance. He choreographed many dance-dramas and solo dances and produced many students.
Raja and Radha Reddy: Raja and Radha Reddy are a Kuchipudi dancing couple, gurus and choreographers. The Government of India have conferred on them the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards. They have choreographed many pieces namely, 'Shivas Dance', 'Mahanatam', 'Shiva Leelas', 'Raasa Shabdam', 'Kuru Yadhunanandana Ashtapadi' and many more.
Kalamandalam Sivan Namboodiri: He is an Indian classical theatre performer, the first person from outside ‘chakyar’ community to practice Koodiyattam from Kerala. He was awarded Padma Shri, in 2012, for his contributions to the art of ‘Koodiyattam’.
Saroj Khan: Nirmala Nagpal, popularly known as Saroj Khan is one of the most outstanding Indian dance choreographers in Hindi cinema. With a career span of over forty years, she choreographed more than 2000 songs.
Priyambada Mohanty Hejmadi: She is an Indian classical dancer of Odissi, art writer, a biologist and a former vice chancellor of Sambalpur University. She has written several articles and a book, ‘Odissi: An Indian Classical Dance Form’. The Government of India awarded her the Padma Shri.
Vaibhavi Merchant: She is an Indian dance choreographer working in Bollywood films. She is the winner of National Film Awards.
Yamini Reddy: She is an Indian classical dancer, a kuchipudi exemplar. She is the daughter of famous dancing couple Drs. Raja Reddy and Radha Reddy. She is the winner of Sangeet Natak Akademi Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar for dedication towards Kuchipudi Dance.
The other famous Indian Dancers are Mani Madhava Chakyar, Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon, Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma, M. S. Sundari Bai, Deepti Omchery Bhalla, Moozhikkulam Kochukuttan Chakyar, Guru Chandrasekharan, Meenakshi Chitharanjan, Haobam Ongbi Ngangbi Devi, Vazhenkada Kunchu Nair, Sneha Kapoor, Lakshmi Gopalaswamy, Shaktiand Mukti Mohan, Rajashree Warrier, Kapila Venu, Sharmistha Mukherjee, Madhuri Dixit and so on.
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