There are many types of dance in India, from those which are deeply religious in content to those which are danced on more trivial happy occasions. Classical dances of India are usually always spiritual in content, although this is often true also of Folk dances.
Kathakali,Theyyam and Mohini Attam from Kerala.
Kathakali literally means story-play and is an elaborate dance depicting the victory of truth over falsehood.A Striking feature of Kathakali is the use of elaborate make-up and colourful costumes. This is to emphasize that the characters are superbeings from another world, and their make-up is easily recognisable to the trained eye as satvik or godlike, rajasik or heroic, and tamasik or demonic.
The themes of the Kathakali are religious in nature. They typically deal with the Mahabarat, the Ramayana and the ancient scriptures known as the Puranas. This is performed in a text which is generally Sanskritised Malayalam.A Kathakali performance is a major social event. They generally start at dusk and go through out the night. Kathakali is usually performed only by men. Female characters are portrayed by men dressed in women's costume. However, in recent years, women have started to become Kathakali dancers.Kathakali has a long tradition. It dates back to the 17th century. It was given its present form by Mahakavi Vallathol Narayan Menon, who was the founder of the Kerala Kala Mandalam.The actors rely very heavily on hand gesture to convey the story. These hand gestures, known as mudra, are common through out much of classical Indian dance.
Theyyam is an artistic dance form where metaphysical thoughts and expressions of immortal souls are impersonated to a believer through a mortal body. .Theyyamor Theyyattam is a popular Hindu ritual of worship in North Kerala state, India, predominant in the Kolathunadu area.Theyyaattam is a pattern of hero worship.The most outstanding ancient dance form of North Kerala.The indigenoustheyyamcult under the
influence of the great classical Indian tradition incorporated new ideals and legends.
It is a ritualistic dance with its rare and grotesque make-up and costume, lively foot work, gymnastic fervour and ritualistic vitality.it includes a complex universe centered on the belief that a man can—after suitable mental, physical and spiritual preliminaries—don the costume of a particular deity and then become that deity. In this elevated state he assumes superhuman and divine powers—speaking, moving, blessing and even healing as a god or goddess. What is crucial is that the person is not possessed by the spirit of the deity.
#3. Mohini Attam
The theme of Mohini attam dance is love and devotion to god. Vishnu or Krishna is most often the hero. The spectators can feel His invisible presence when the heroine or her maid details dreams and ambitions through circular movements, delicate footsteps and subtle expressions. Through slow and medium tempos, the dancer is able to find adequate space for improvisations and suggestive bhavas or emotions.
The basic dance steps are the Adavus which are of four kinds: Taganam, Jaganam, Dhaganam and Sammisram. These names are derived from the nomenclature called vaittari.
The Mohini attam dancer maintains realistic make-up and adorns a simple costume, in comparison to costumes of other dances, such as Kathakali. The dancer is attired in a beautiful white with gold border Kasavu saree of Kerala, with the distinctive white jasmin flowers around a French bun at the side of her head.
#4. Bharata Natyam from Tamil Nadu.
Bharatanatyam, according to Balasaraswati, is a variety of natya yoga that reveals the spiritual through the physical and emotional body. It is the most popular of the Indian classical dance forms in South India, and the most ancient of all the classical Indian dance styles in the entire India, which are all based on Natya Shastra, the Bible of the classical Indian dance. The term "Bharatanatyam" was used by Purandara Dasa (1484-1564). Later, Ghanam Krishnayyar's songs descirbes a devadasi as an expert at Bharata natyam. Subramania Bharathi also speaks about Bharatnatyam. Bharata Natyam dance has been handed down through the centuries by dance teachers (or gurus) called nattuwanars and the temple dancers, called devadasis. In the sacred environment of the temple these familes developed and propagated their heritage. The training traditionally took around seven years under the direction of the nattuwanar who were scholars and persons of great learning. The four great nattuwanars of Tanjore were known as the Tanjore Quartet and were brothers named Chinnaiah, Ponnaiah, Vadivelu and Shivanandam. The Bharata Natyam repertiore as we know it today was constructed by this talented Tanjore Quartet.
#5.Kuchipudi from Andhra Pradesh
Kuchipudi derives its name from the village of Kuchelapuram, in Andhra Pradesh, India. As a classical form of dance, drama and music, Kuchipudi enjoys a unique place among the Indian classical idioms. Kuchipudi grew largely as a product of the Bhakti movement beginning in the seventh century A.D. It was in the 14th century, however, that the ascetic Siddhendra Yogi appeared on the scene and gave Kuchipudi a new definition and direction.
Kuchipudi was originally a male dance tradition. Groups of men traveled from village to village enacting stories from the Hindu mythology. As in Elizabethan theatre men portrayed the roles of women. It is only in the last century that women have been introduced to this art form. Kuchipudi in its present form is the result of the vision of stalwarts like Padmabhushan Vempati Chinna Sathyam and the late Vedantam Laxminarayana Shastry.
Kuchipudi is characterized by fast rhythms and fluid movements, creating a unique blend of control and abandon, strength and delicacy. The dance drama that stil exists today and can most closely be associated with the Sanskrit theatrical tradition is Kuchipudi which is also known as Bhagavata Mela Natakam. The actors sing and dance, and the style is a blend of folk and classical. Arguably this is why this technique has greater freedom and fluidity than other dance styles.
#6. Odissi from Orissa
Based on Natya Shastra, Odissi is regarded as one of the oldest surviving dance forms of India, with well preserved archaeological evidence. It has originated from Orissa and its history can be traced back to the 2nd century BC. The dance form has been extensively depicted in the sculptures of Brahmeswara temple and Sun Temple at Konark. Kelucharan Mohapatra, an erstwhile Goti Pua, is the greatest exponent and guru of Odissi. Some of the other exponents of this dance form are Indrani Rehman, Sonal Mansingh, Sanjukta Panigrahi, Protima Gauri Bedi, Madhavi Mudgal, Guru Mayadhar Raut, Guru Deva Prasad Das and Guru Durga Charan Das.
Odissi is based on the popular devotion to Lord Krishna and the verses of the Sanskrit play Geet Govinda are used to depict the love and devotion to God. The Odissi dancers use their head, bust and torso in soft flowing movements to express specific moods and emotions.
The form is curvaceous, concentrating on the tribhang or the division of the body into three parts, head, bust and torso; the mudras and the expressions are similar to those of Bharatnatyam. Odissi performances are replete with lores of the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, Lord Krishna. It is a soft, lyrical classical dance which depicts the ambience of Orissa and the philosophy of its most popular deity, Lord Jagannath, whose temple is in Puri. On the temple walls of Bhubaneshwar, Puri and Konark the dance sculptures of Odissi are clearly visible.
#7. Kathak from Uttar Pradesh
The legendary exponent of Kathak, Birju Maharaj.
This north Indian dance form is inextricably bound with classical Hindustani music, and the rhythmic nimbleness of the feet is accompanied by the table or pakhawaj. Traditionally the stories were of Radha and Krishna, in the Natwari style (as it was then called) but the Moghul invasion of North India had a serious impact on the dance. The dance was taken to Muslim courts and thus it became more entertaining and less religious in content. More emphasis was laid on nritta, the pure dance aspect and less on abhinaya (expression and emotion).
#8. Manipuri from Manipur
Singhajit Singh and Charu Siya Mathur.
This dance style was originally called jogai which means circular movement. In ancient texts it has been compared to the movement of the planets around the sun.
It is said that when Krishna, Radha and the gopis danced the Ras Leela, Shiva made sure that no one disturbed the beauty of the dancing. Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva also wished to see this dance, so to please her he chose the beautiful area of manipur and re-enacted the Ras Leela. Hundreds of centuries later, in the 11th century, during the reign of Raja Loyamba, prince Khamba of the Khomal dynasty and Princess Thaibi of the Mairang dynasty re-enacted the dance and it became known as Lai-Haraoba, the most ancient dance of Manipur.