Classical dance is a celebrated ancient tradition in India. Indians from all across the country engage in folk dances especially when huge crowds have gathered as is the case in weddings and cultural festivals. It is common knowledge that dance is a central element of Indian relationships as showcased in the now so popular Bollywood films.
While the Indian way of life is accentuated by classical dance, it is interesting to note that various parts of the country have a unique style.
The Bharatanatyam is popular with the Tamil Nadu people that live in Southern India. The first expression of this classical dance can be traced back to Natyashastra a performance done in ancient India which had been written by Bharata, a mythic priest.
While both men and women have been seen performing it in modern times, it was initially for women and specifically performed in the temple.
Kathakali classical dance originated from Southwestern India as a religious dance. Inspired by the stories of Ramayana and Shaiva, Kathakali is performed by males even when the role at hand is female. There is a special costume and makeup art that accompanies this dance where the face must look like a mask and performers have to wear large headdresses.
Kathak is the classical dance of Northern India and is often performed as an expression of love. Both men and women can perform this dance provided they have learned the intricate footwork. The moves are further accentuated using ankle bells and stylish gestures that are similar to normal body gestures. Traditionally, this dance was used in the temple to tell stories.
Manipuri is a dance of the people of Northeast India and is rooted in deep ritual and traditions. Characterized by graceful, smooth movements, this classical dance depicts scenes portraying the life of Lord Krishna. Female dancers mostly move arms and hands while males are generally vigorous.
Kuchipudi dancers are masters of dance and music and have roots in Andhra Pradesh area in Southeastern India. Highly ritualized, dancers burn incense, sprinkle holy water and invoke goddesses. It was predominantly a male ritual but is today entirely performed by women.
Depending on which part of India you are in, the number of classical dances will vary in number. The most outstanding aspect of Indian classical dances is the symbolism of the gestures used. This concept of acting in dancing is what arouses joy and holds the attention of the spectators.