There are many dance forms in India – some are deeply religious in content while others are danced just as an expression of joy or for relieving the stress after a day’s hard work. The classical dance forms use basically the same ‘mudras’ or signs of hand as a common language of expression and were originally performed in the temples to entertain various Gods and Goddesses. They were also effective in carrying forward the various mythological stories from generation to generation while entertaining the audiences.



 Bharatanatyam is one of the oldest dance forms of India.  This dance originated in the state of Tamilnadu and was nurtured in the temples and courts of Southern India.   Bharata Natyam dance has been handed down through the centuries by dance teachers called nattuwanars and the temple dancers, called devadasis. The four great nattuwanars of Tanjore were known as the Tanjore Quartet and were brothers named Chinnaiah, Ponnaiah, Vadivelu and Shivanandam. The complete performance of this dance involves six stages known as Alarippu, Jatiswaram, Sabdam, Varnam, Padam and Thillana.  Nritta comprises of three elements – a basic standing position, movement of the legs and feet and decorative hand gestures.  Music for this dance is based on important tunes or ragas such as Bhairavi, Kalyani and Kambodhi.



This style of dance which is said to have originated from the Jaipur and Lucknow gharanas is derived from the word Katha meaning ‘story telling’.  Traditionally the stories were of Radha and Krishna but after the invasion of the Mughuls, it shows traces of Muslim court etiquette.

The structure of a conventional Kathak performance tends to follow a progression in tempo from slow to fast, ending with a dramatic climax. A short dance composition is known as a tukra, a longer one as a toda. There are also compositions consisting solely of footwork.



This classical dance form is associated with the state of Manipur from North Eastern India.  The main theme of this dance is “Krishna’s Ras Leela”.  Manipuri dancers do not wear ankle bells to accentuate the beats tapped out by the feet, in contrast with other Indian dance forms, and the dancers’ feet never strike the ground hard. Movements of the body and feet and facial expressions in Manipuri dance are subtle and aim at devotion and grace.  Ornamated and starched skirts are typical dress codes of the Manipuri dance.



It is a classical dance form of Kerala.  This dance form is based mostly on themes derived from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and other Hindu epics, mythologies and legends. A Striking feature of Kathakali is the use of elaborate make-up and colourful costumes.  Loud drums are played while the dance drama, depicting the courage of heroic kings and the cunning of evil characters, is performed.



Mohiniattam is derived from the words “Mohini” (meaning beautiful women) and “attam”(meaning dance).  This dance form is a beautiful feminine style with surging flow of body movements. Mohiniattam dance in Kerala is developed in the tradition of Devadasi system, which later grew and developed a classical status.  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.



Kuchipudi derives its name from the Kuchipudi village of Andhra Pradesh. In the seventeenth century the Kuchipudi village was presented to the Brahmins, who were experts in staging dance and drama. Kuchipudi exhibits scenes from the Hindu Epics, legends and mythological tales through a combination of music, dance and acting.The technique of Kuchipudi makes use of fast rhythmic footwork and sculpturesque body movements.  Stylized mime, using hand gestures and subtle facial expressions, is combined with more realistic acting, occasionally including dialogues spoken by the dancers.



Odissi is one of the famous classical Indian dances from Orissa state. This dance traces its origins to the ritual dances performed in the temples of Orissa, by the devadasis.  The dancers use their head, bust and torso in soft flowing movements to express specific moods and emotions. This dance has been mentioned in the inscriptions and depicted on sculptures in temples like the Brahmeswara and the dancing hall of the Sun Temple of Konark.

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