Dance is to move rhythmically to music, typically following a set sequence of steps. But for someone, it is worship, for someone it is an art, for someone it is an expression of emotions, for someone it is a symbol of happiness, for someone it is an entertainment, for someone it is a life. As India is diverse in its culture and heritage so in its dance and music forms. Indian classical dance forms evolved during a very long period of time. Simplest meaning of Indian classical dance in Hindi would be Shashtriya Devesh. This is the standard term used for describing various performance arts those are rooted in religious Hindu musical theatre styles. The theory and practice of Indian Classical dance can be traced to the Sanskrit text Natya Shahtra.
According to the sources and scholars, the recognized forms of classical dances may vary. Some of them describe the eight forms of Indian Classical Dance, however some of them describe even more. Sangeet Natak Academy recognizes the eight forms of Indian classical dance and they are Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Kathakali, Sattriya, Manipuri and Mohiniyattam. Some of the scholars add Chhau, Yakshagana and Bhagavata Mela to the list. The Culture Ministry of the Government of India includes Chhau in its classical list. These different forms represent a unity of core ideas in a diversity of styles, costumes and expression. All of them include the music and recitation in local language or Sanskrit. These are traditionally regional.
Excavations, inscriptions, chronicles, genealogies of kings and artists, literary sources, sculpture and painting of different periods provide extensive evidence on dance in India. A bronze statue of a dancing lady appeared from the remnants of the Mohenjodaro or rock paintings of humans while dancing made in India’s temples; Stupas, caves show the history and development of the dance with evidence.
The Natya Shastra is the foundational treatise for classical dances of India. The holy book “Natya Shastra” composed by Bharat Muni in the 1st century AD, is still worshipped in the form of fifth Veda. This book has an outstanding collection of theories of dance and music in which the subtle astral analysis of the law and abstract representation of the dance. Dance and performance arts, states that this ancient text, is a form of expression of spiritual ideas, virtues and the essence of scriptures.
The Indian classical dances have two basic aspects – Tandava (movement & rhythm) and Lasya (grace, bhava & rasa) all of which are the parts of Indian classical dances. Natya Shastra divides all human values in Navarasas and this Navarasas expresses nine bhava (emotions) – Shringara (love, pleasure); Veer (vigor, heroic); Rudra (anger, fury); Bhay (fear, concern); Ghrana (disgust, repulsive); Hasya (comic, mocking); Karun (pathetic, sad); Vishmaya (wondrous, Marvel); And Shaant (peace, tranquility). The purpose of any dance is to create the Ras, which is an estate of the spirit created by the dancer in front of the viewers according to the expression.
Natya Shastra is the ancient text in Hindu tradition but also there are numerous other ancient and medieval Sanskrit dance-drama related texts that further discuss and expand on the classical repertoire of performance arts such as the Abhinaya Darpana, Abhinava Bharati, Natya Darpana, Bhava Prakasa and many others.
The three main components are Natya (the dramatic element of the dance i.e. the imitation of characters) Nritta (the dance movements in their basic form) Nritya (expressional component i.e. mudras or gestures).
According to the Natya Shastra, the dancer portrays the meaning of the play (drama) through four types of actions: presentation of emotion through the stylistic operation of different organs of the body; Verbal or speech, songs, vocal cord, and voice-style; Auspicious or costume and adornment; and total psychological resources. The classical dancer has a complex repository of stylized poses. For each part of the body, of which the eyes and hands are most important, the poses are traditionally determined. Various movements of the feet, such as flaunting, fluttering, sidle, rhythm carefully used during a classical dance performance.
Acting in a solo dance, drama, a man or a woman can perform actions of two or three significant characters respectively, changing the mood and mood of the face.
The aesthetic joy of Hindu dance and theatre depends on how successful an artist is in expressing a particular expression and raising the Ras.
The classical dance forms recognized by the Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Ministry of Culture are
- Bharatanatyam, from Tamil Nadu
- Kathak from Uttar Pradesh
- Kathakali from Kerala
- Kuchipudi from Andhra Pradesh
- Odissi from Odisha
- Sattriya from Assam
- Manipuri from Manipur
- Mohiniyattam from Kerala