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What Is Indian Classical Dance?

Indian Classical Dance
via Pinterst

Indian classical dance is deeply rooted in the country’s cultural history. However, there was a period when this dancing genre was on its way out. Indian classical dance, like other art forms, saw a rebirth and resurfaced with a vengeance.

This dance genre has a unique personality that represents a significant cultural and traditional endeavour. The many styles of Indian dance have crossed boundaries and socio-cultural barriers. Proponents of classical dance think it has the potential to inspire a new, disciplined way of living.

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Types of Indian Classical Dance

Indian classical dance is a catch-all name for a variety of musical theatre-inspired performance arts whose philosophy and practice may be traced back to the Sanskrit book Natyashastra.

Depending on the origin and researcher, there are more than a hundred classical dances. Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Kathakali, Sattriya, Manipuri, and Mohiniyattam are the eight styles recognized by the Sangeet Natak Academy. These dances have a long history in their respective regions.

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Types of Dance Forms

Avanti (Ujjain, centre), Dakshinatya (south), Panchali (north, west), and Odra-Magadhi are four Pravrittis (traditions, genres) of ancient dance-drama that were popular at the time the Natya Shastra was written.

The list of Indian classical dance styles varies depending on the reference.

Nine Indian dances have been recognized by the Sangeet Natak Academy. Eleven dance styles are recognized by the Indian government’s Ministry of Culture. Specialists like Drid Williams have also included Chhau, Yaksagana, and Bhagavata Mela to the Sangeet Natak Akademi’s list of eight ancient Indian dances.

Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Ministry of Culture have affiliated and approved the following classical dance genres:

  • 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

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About Abhinaya (to act)

In abhinaya, all of India’s traditional dances employed the same symbolism and gesture principles (acting). The Natyashastra literature describes abhinaya as “that which artistically arouses delight in the viewers through the channel of actor’s art of communication, which helps link and transport the person into a hypersensual inner state of being.

“According to Natyashastra, performance art connects the artists and the audience through abhinaya. Which involves using body-speech-mind and scene to communicate with the audience through acting and music.