Indian Classical Dance Pose By: Aneesha
Indian Classical Dance Pose By: Aneesha
Vedic Dance forms
The Natya Shastra, written by Bharata Muni, does not mention the name of any classical dance forms recognised today, but listed the four Pravrittis as Dakshinatya, Audramagadhi, Avanti and Panchali.

Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, and Mohiniyattam evolved from the Pravritti form called Dakshinatya.

Audramagadhi represents the regional dance of Audramagadha, comprising the territories of Anga, Banga, the northern part of Kalinga and Vatsa (Sloka is angabangautkalingavatsachaiva audramagadha). This led to the evolution of Odissi in Odisha, Satriya in Assam and Gaudiya Nritya in Bengal. Little is known about the two other forms described by Bharata Muni, Avanti and Panchali.

The Sangeet Natak Akademi has given recognition to eight Indian dance styles. The Akademi holds a Natya Sangam (festival of dance) during which dancers from other classical forms are invited to perform. Sources differ on the listing of Indian classical dance forms. Encyclopædia Britannica mentions six recognised schools. The Indian government's Ministry of Culture has increased the number of dance forms that it accepts as part of Indian classical dance repertory and provides scholarships to young performers for the study of "Indian Classical Dance/Dance Music." It currently confers classical dance status to eleven dance forms. The classical dance forms recognised by the Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Ministry of Culture are represented below:
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Ancient Vedic Dance

The mention of the word dance conjures up images of Natarāja (Lord of dance) as the Indian God Śiva is portrayed. Apart from Śiva even Gaṇeśa and Srikriśna are associated with dance and music. India has many classical dance styles. The oldest text dealing with aesthetics covering various art forms including dance is the Nātyaśāstra which is authored by Bharatamuni.

All the Indian classical dance styles viz. Bharata Nātyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Odissi, Mohiniattam, Kathakali, Manipuri, etc., are derived from the Nātyaśāstra. Some of these dance styles have evolved from folk dances and are intimately connected with the art of story telling. Most of these stories are drawn from our epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata, tales from collections like the Pancatantra, Hitopadeśa, Kathā Sarit Sāgara, etc., also form the subject matter of these dance styles.

In fact the Kathak and Kathakali from U.P. and Kerala respectively, derive their names from the term Katha which in Sanskrit means a story. As the story is told in the form of dance, these dance styles can actually be called dance-dramas, the only difference is the absence of dialogues.

The Charkul dance-drama of Central India revolves around a story generally from the Indian epics like the Ramayana and the Mahābhārata. Similar traditions of dance-dramas are prevalent in other parts of India too. In Maharāshtra, you have the Daśāvatāra, in Karnataka you have the Yakshagāna.

The story has to be told solely through actions and hence an elaborate pattern of facial expressions (Mudra), movement of hands (Hasta) and the simulation of various moods like anger (Krodha), envy (Matsara), greed (Lobha), lust (Kāma), ego (Mada), etc., have been evolved. The mastery of perfect expression of these feelings by subtle movement of the lips and eyes forms the root of all the classical Indian dance styles.

In fact the combination of the three qualities viz. expression, rhyme and rhythm i.e. Bhāva, Rāga, and Tāla go into the determination of the term Bha-Ra-Ta, which is used as the name of one dance style viz. Bharata Nātyam.

The integration of Indian classical dance with the physical exercises of Yoga and the breath control of "Prānāyām" has perfected the dance styles. Yoga especially had given the dance styles an excellent footwork which is called Pādanyasa and Pādalalitya. Another feature of these dance styles is that they are integrated with theology and worship. Traditionally these dances were patronized by the temples.
During festivals and other religious occasions, these dances were performed in the temple premises to propitiate the deity. Thus the dance came to combine both art and worship. Even today every recital of any Indian classical dance begins with an invocation to Natarāja or Nāteśvara the god of dance.

The God of Dance is himself shown to be dancing in a form called the Tāndava. This has also been depicted in the statues and carvings in temples like, Khajurāho and Konark in Northern India, and at Chidambaram, Madurai, Rāmeshwaram, etc. in the South.

Dances have also evolved styles based on the Tāndava like the Urdhra Tāndava, Sandhya Tāndava, etc. Indian classical dance found its way outside India, especially to the countries of Southeast Asia. The dance styles of Thailand, Indonesia, Burma, etc., have so heavily borrowed from the Indian classical dance traditions that to a casual observer there would seem to be hardly any difference between the two. While Western dance has not directly borrowed anything from Indian classical dance, it has borrowed from Indian folk dance through the medium of the Gypsies.
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Definition
These are:
Dances performed inside the sanctum of the temple according to the rituals were called Agama Nartanam. Natya Shastra classifies this type of dance form as margi, or the soul-liberating dance, unlike the desi (purely entertaining) forms.
Dances performed in royal courts to the accompaniment of classical music were called Carnatakam. This was an intellectual art form. Darbari Aattam form

For lack of any better equivalents in the European culture, the British colonial authorities called any performing art forms found in India as "Indian dance". Even though the art of Natya includes nritta, or dance proper, Natya has never been limited to dancing and includes singing, abhinaya (mime acting). These features are common to all the Indian classical styles. In the margi form Nritta is composed of karanas, while the desi nritta consists mainly of adavus.

The term "classical" (Sanscr. "Shastriya") was introduced by Sangeet Natak Akademi to denote the Natya Shastra-based performing art styles. A very important feature of Indian classical dances is the use of the mudra or hand gestures by the artists as a short-hand sign language to narrate a story and to demonstrate certain concepts such as objects, weather, nature and emotion. Many classical dances include facial expressions as an integral part of the dance form.
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Eight classical dances
Sangeet Natak Akademi currently confers classical status on eight Indian dance styles

Dance form          State(s) of origin

1. Bharatanatyam           Karnataka, Tamil Nadu
2. Kathak                          North Indian States
3. Kathakali                    Kerala
4. Kuchipudi                    Andhra Pradesh
5. Manipuri                       Manipur
6. Mohiniyattam               Kerala
7. Odissi                             Orissa
8. Sattriya                         Assam
9. Yakshagana                  Karnataka

Other Art Dances yet to be conferred as Classical Dances, whose theories can also be traced back to the Natya Shastra are-

1. Andhra Natyam - Telugu Art Dance
2. Vilasini Nrityam/Natyam - Telugu Art Dance

Out of the eight styles, the only two temple dance styles that have their origin in Natya Shastra and are prescribed by the Agamas are Bharatanatyam and Odissi. These two most faithfully adhere to the Natya Shastra but currently do not include Vaachikaabhinaya (dialog acts), although some styles of Bharatanatyam, such as Melattur style, prescribe the lip movements indicating Vaachikaabhinaya.

Kuchipudi, which also prescribes the lip movements indicating Vaachikaabhinaya, and Mohiniyattam are relatively recent Darbari Aatam forms, just as Kathakali, and two eastern Indian styles, Manipuri and Sattriya, that are quite similar.

Kathak originated as a temple dance. Some believe it evolved from Lord Krishna's raas lilas. The style gradually changed during the Mughal period under the influence of Persian dance, a major change being straight knees instead of the bent knees used in most other Indian classical forms. Intricate footwork and spins, as well as abhinaya, are the highlights of Kathak.

Currently, Sangeet Natak Akademi does not consider the recently reconstructed dance styles of Andhra Pradesh such as Andhra Natyam and Vilasini Natyam as "classical". Bharatanrithyam, despite being the one most closely following Natya Shastra's precepts, is considered as a variety of Bharatanatyam.

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