Indian dance forms: All that is to know

Indian dance
Indian dance

Indian dance is not for the undisciplined, irregular or the fickle minded. It has many forms. And while each form is a discipline and subject within itself, overall Indian dance requires major focus.

It requires hard work, dedication, focus, discipline, stamina and most importantly, a humongous passion for the art of dancing.

For most types of Indian classical dances have a thought out curriculum/syllabus that every student (aspiring Indian dancer) needs to follow. And it takes several years to master any traditional Indian dances. For mastering the technique takes a lot of time and it is not easy.

But Indian dances are not only reduced to perfecting the technique. Because what is required most, even more than learning the technique perfectly is working on the right expressions.

Indian classical dance forms are known for their beautiful facial expressions, immaculate body language, and technique and the notable presentation. That, of course, includes the classical Indian classical dance costumes and impeccable makeup, hair and styling.

Indian classical dance recognizes dance as an art form. And treats and respects it like that. The various teachers of Indian dance realize the importance of using dance as a way to shape up the personality of their students. And they take this job very seriously.

For through dance, they instill discipline, respect for others and yourself and majorly, confidence. Indian dance teaches every student to be confident in his or her own ability and themselves. And this helps them in all spheres of life, not only dancing.

As we can see, Indian dance forms teach kids so much more than just dancing. They give them life lessons which stay with the students long after they have grown-up.

Indian dance and its definition

With so much to learn about the Indian dance forms, let us first understand what is Indian dance? Its origins and what it means to be trained in any Indian dance form as a dancer.

Indian dance is a broad term that includes the various dance forms that have originated in our beautiful land of India. When people first hear about Indian dances, they automatically (well mostly) think of Bollywood dances.

Not to deny its importance or presence, after all, Bollywood does fall under the category of Indian dance forms. But Indian classical dance forms are not only limited to Bollywood movies.

As mentioned earlier, it is a very broad term that includes various classical dance forms that have originated and been there in our country from the beginning. And these dance forms have been the ones from which various other dance forms have originated (or taken inspiration from) worldwide.

Also, a point to be noted is, Indian dance is another term used to define classical dances. These terms will be used interchangeably in this article as they are used elsewhere.

One thing to know though is that Indian classical dance can be said to contain both classical dance and Bollywood dance.

As by definition and rule, Bollywood does not fall in the Indian classical dance category. Even though, it has in the past and still does take immense inspiration from different Indian classical dances.

However, before discussing more Bollywood dance and how it takes inspiration from various Indian classical dance forms. Let us briefly familiarize ourselves with the origins of Indian dances.


Indian dance: Its evolution

Indian dance forms have been present since the very beginning. However, it has evolved into so much more since its inception.

If you are a classically trained Indian dancer or are interested in the various Indian classical dance forms, you might be familiar with the concept of Natyashastra. We will not dwell deeply in this. We will just highlight the outline of what Natyashastra is.

As you all Classical dance enthusiasts must be familiar with, Brahma wrote a thesis on Natya Veda (‘Natya’ means dance) that we have come to know as Natyashastra.  It covered in detail a wide variety of different aspects of Indian dance as a beautiful art form.

It covered everything like the different dance postures, the music, facial expressions, the emotions, make up, the detail oriented and magnificent costumes, everything that is to be known about performing on stage in front of an audience.

The Natyashastra is often regarded as the fifth Veda. Thus, we can say that the Indian classical dance owes its origins to Natyashastra.

Talking further about the evolution of Indian dance, it is widely known that various Indian classical dance forms were actually temple dances. That is, these dance styles were performed in the temples and were a medium of storytelling.

Indian dance: More on its evolution

As we often see today, music and dance are used to exhibit and bring to the world different ways of telling a story. Similarly, even in ancient times, dance was used as a medium for storytelling. Whether it was in the temples or in the royal king’s courts.

Also, as the beautiful country of India has so many different states, the different states have their own dance forms. That is, some Indian dances have originated in a particular state and come to be known as the dance form of that state.

For example, Odissi is a dance form that originated in the state of Orissa and hence, has come to be known as the dance of the state of Orissa.

As we can see the Indian classical dance evolved from being temple dance to be given its own identity. And it has ever since grown into so much more. There are various modern dance forms that have taken its base and inspiration from Indian classical dances.

And then of course, it has also given birth to Bollywood dance, which uses inspiration from various Indian dances. Also, throughout history both men and women have performed Indian classical dances.

There are some dances that were performed just by men. Some dances were performed just by women and others that were performed both by both men and women.

So we can conclude the history of dance in India is vivid and vast and encompasses various different elements.

Indian Dance: Some notable facts

Classical Indian Dance
Classical Indian Dance

Let us learn a little bit more about the classical Indian classical dances before discussing the numerous types of Indian dance forms. As we have discussed, Indian dance was used as a medium to tell stories.

Because of which performing an Indian classical dance form is so much more than just perfecting the dancing techniques. It includes detailing of everything from music to the expressions and body language to the makeup and elaborated costumes.

Two notable things we would like to talk about are the requirement of expressions and the detailing of the magnificent costumes.

  1. Because we are essentially replaying a story through dance, our expressions need to be very accurate while performing any Indian dance form. Only then will the dancer be able to capture the essence of the character. And hence transform into a notable performer. Also, because the dance is performed in front of a live audience, the dancer has to be very expressive and loud in his/her movement. Thus, the importance of expressions is understood.
  2. Now, the costumes used in the various Indian dance performances are very elaborate, beautiful, detail oriented and critical to the dance. As mentioned earlier, these dances are not dances alone; they are stage performances that tell a story. Hence, the costumes are an extension of the characters being portrayed on stage and that is why there is so much detail required. Another thing because most of the stories told through performing Indian dance are of ancient times like of lords and kings and their court, the costumes have to be grand like that time. Hence, the inspiration of all the classical Indian dance costumes comes from that era.

Different types of Indian classical dances

Indian dance as discussed earlier is a broad term that defines multiple Indian classical dance forms. Dance forms that are performed in various parts of our country since the ancient times.

So, let us see what all dance forms are included in Indian dance and where all are they performed (or from which state they have originated).

  • Bharatnatyam from Tamil Nadu
  • Kathak from Northern and Western India
  • Kathakali from Kerala
  • Kuchipudi from Andhra Pradesh
  • Manipuri from Manipur
  • Odissi from Orissa
  • Mohiniattam from Kerala
  • Sattriya from Assam
  • Indian Contemporary dance is a fusion of various classical Indian dance forms and modern dance forms.
  • Tribal and Folk dances originated from the dances of different tribes or to celebrate different festivals like Onam.
  • Bollywood dance performed in Bollywood movies.

Indian dance forms and their influence on Bollywood

Bollywood, a term coined for the Hindi Film Industry is perhaps the largest movie industry in the world. Hence, Indian classical dance is many a time thought to be a synonym for Bollywood dance which is not the case as we have explained above.

However, as we have also mentioned above that Bollywood dance has included and taken a lot of inspiration from classical dance. Whether it is in inclusion of steps or entire dance performances, Bollywood has always given huge importance and weigh-age to different classical dance forms.

There are numerous examples of this inspiration in many films. Write from the 1950’s-1960’s to date, there have been multiple dance numbers in Bollywood that have included or have been based on classical dance forms.

There have been many actresses from different eras who have performed and made famous various classical dance forms. Actresses ranging from Vyjayanthimala and Padmini to Meenakshi Sheshadri and Hema Malini to Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan have performed numerous classical dance styles.

And these dance numbers have gone on to become very famous, adored and admired the world over. These dance numbers have mostly presented the various classical dances authentically.

Some of these classical dance numbers in Bollywood movies have also been choreographed by great Indian Classical Dancers.  An example of this can be seen in the massively famous ‘Dola Re Dola’ dance number in the hugely successful movie Devdas.


Indian Dance: Its influence on the world and in India.


Indian dance
Indian dance

Classical Indian dance forms are famous all over the world. The dance number ‘Dola Re Dola’ has become one of the most iconic dance numbers of this generation. Both the actresses, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit (known as great dancers of bollywood) have been hugely applauded and appreciated for performing the number with aplomb.

However, the main reason for the authenticity and popularity of this number are the authentic steps and dance techniques. This is because these dance steps and the dance number is choreographed by none other than the world famous Indian classic (Kathak) dancer, Pandit Birju Maharaj.

He is a world renowned and awarded Kathak (a type of classical Indian dance) dancer who has choreographed for many Bollywood songs. And each of these songs has been very successful.

There are another notable world famous Indian classical dancers who have also choreographed for some Hindi or regional films. Like the noted world famous Indian classical dancer, Uday Shankar.

And it is not only full songs, even in a particular Bollywood song, there can be steps and elements from different Indian dance forms.

Today, people from different countries, whether it is the United States or any other European country, want to learn various classical Indian classical dances. Classical Indian dance forms are appreciated the world over. Indian dance has generated a lot of buzz in the western media as well.

But what is the state of classical Indian classical dance forms in India itself? While, culturally, Indian classical dance forms are revered, applauded and given a decent platform.

Commercially or in the media it is not as well covered or popular as it should be. There isn’t so much awareness of the different Indian classical dance forms or what they entail. And that is extremely sad.

Share your Indian dance video at Sharehiss and help make the dancing community more inclusive and big.

Indian classical dance is a part of our rich heritage and it deserves to be represented and honored. And that is exactly what we at Sharehiss have set out to do. We want to provide a platform to promote the beautiful classical Indian dance forms.

We want to build a dance community where each and every dance form and category, whether Indian dance or Modern dance forms, gets equal representation. As we believe dance is a beautiful art form that deserves to be recognized. And valued highly as a cohesive unit.

A unit, that takes the dancing community to new and improved heights in our country. Share your videos here and help build this dancing community.

Just share your classical Indian dance videos on Sharehiss. And we will support and promote you on our platform where the world can recognize. And recommend these beautiful dance forms.



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Indian dance forms: All that is to know

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