Indian dance has existed for centuries, and is a rich part of India's history and culture. Read on to learn more about both the classic and modern styles of this unique choreography.
The Beginning of Indian Dance
India has long cherished dance as an integral part of their culture and various celebrations, and this includes several classical dance forms. Each one takes its roots from a different region of the nation, and oftentimes the dances themselves tell a story or commemorate an ideal of the people. In fact, much of Indian dance can be considered not only to be choreography, but drama as well. Acting is an important part of India's dance traditions, and you will find the performers to often be very animated and able to convey messages even with an absence of speech.
Classical dance is currently divided into eight distinct styles - Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Mohiniaattam, Sattriya, Kathak and Kathakali. Dancers in India may learn one or all of these styles, depending upon where they study dance and how extensively they choose to do so.
Another important part of India's dance history includes Shaivite movement, which are dancers who worship the Lord Shiva. He is considered to be the "lord of the dance" and many separate dance forms have spawned off through this sect of worshippers. Many of these dances promote and celebrate peace and love, and some are still performed in Indian cultural festivals today.
Outside of the eight classical genres, there are also countless folk dances. These are often performed for special occasions, and most are choreographed to express a distinct level of joy. You will see these ancient dances in certain sects to celebrate the birth of a child, a wedding or even the arrival of a new season. The dances are much easier to learn than the classical forms, as they were created by various tribe members with little or no formal dance training. The dances also oftentimes involve singing, and almost all are accompanied by musical instruments. Costuming for folk dances are extremely celebratory, full of bright fabrics and sparkling jewels.
With clapped hands, rhythmic steps, and shouts of jubilation, Indian folk dances are a special thing to observe, and are even more enjoyable to participate in. For this reason, many sects in India continue to perform these simplistic movements today.
Bollywood - The Modern Era of Indian Dance
Similar to how the dance musical revolutionized Hollywood, song and movement have changed the face of Indian dance as well. This has mostly happened thanks to Bollywood, India's fantastical film industry. Originally based upon both classical and folk dance, the choreography evolved to a point where it is now greatly intermingled with Western music video style dancing. When viewing a Bollywood number, you will see cultural steps infused with hip hop dance and even Fosse inspired moves.
Usually, a male and female lead will be accompanied by a large dance ensemble, and in signature Bollywood style, there are usually quick scene and costume changes that can make your head spin. Much of Bollywood is rooted far from reality, which also lends a lot to its appeal and enjoyment. Dances are usually very peppy and colorful, and sometimes have nothing to do with the movie plot itself. A beautiful girl known as an "item girl" often performs an "item number", which is a particularly wonderful song and dance completely separate from the progression of the film itself.
Bollywood also now manufactures its own music videos, either independently or as part of a film promotion. The industry continues to be a huge hit in India, as well as other countries in Asia. Americans also have caught the Bollywood bug, with popular crossover hits such as "Bride and Prejudice."
A Dance of Joy
While many cultures have dances representing all emotions and experiences in life, India continues to be known for its celebratory joy. With its gorgeous costuming and intricate choreography, Indian dance is always sure to captivate and put a smile on your face.