In India, dancing is considered to be an age-old tradition. A land of diverse cultures, traditions and languages, the country has given birth to a large number of dances (classical). These dance forms have been preserved through the centuries and are regarded as the specialty of a particular region or tribe which follows its own pattern in terms of music, steps, costumes or make-up. .
At present, some of the popular classical dances of India are Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Mohiniattam and Odissi. Besides this, wetern dance forms like Hip Hop, Break Dance, Belley, Salsa etc have also gained much popularity in Indian society.
Native to Tamil Nadu (a state in Southern India), Bharatanatyam is one of the popular Indian classical dance forms. It was previously referred to as Sadir, Dasiattam and Thanjavur Natyam. The dance form demands unconditional and complete dedication from the side of the performer.
Kathak, which originated in northern India, represents one of the eight forms of Indian classical dances. The name Kathak has been derived from the Sanskrit word 'katha', meaning story. Thus, 'katthaka' means the one who tells a story. Kathak focuses more on the footwork of the dancer.
The picturesque state of Kerala has gifted India with a dance drama known as Kathakali. Embedded in stories from the epics, Ramayana, Mahabharata and from the Puranas (ancient scriptures), the dance form is believed to have originated in the 16th century.
Dance of Mohini is quite popular in Indian mythology. Mohini according to legends was a very beautiful woman who attracted people instantly and was an enchantress, thus Mohiniattam is the dance of the enchantress. It is also believed that Lord Vishnu had disguised himself as 'Mohini' with an intention to slay Bhasmasura and also during the churning of nectar from the ocean. But the basis of this dance is not seduction alone. Not many knows that it also signifies transformation of Lord Vishnu into a female form and also the concept of 'Ardhnareeshwara' i.e. male and female as one. Like many other dance forms, this was also restricted to the Devadasis. Love and devotion to god is the major theme behind the dance. Vishnu or Krishna is more often the hero. The spectators could feel his invisible presence when the heroine or her maid details dreams and ambitions through the circular movements, delicate footsteps and subtle expression.
Kuchipudi was introduced as a dance drama, but its present day dispensation tells a different story altogether. It has now been reduced only to dance form, with the drama missing completely. With proficient training and knowledge, the Kuchipudi dancers have started presenting the dance form in their individualistic ways, today.
Manipuri is the classical dance from the Manipur region in the North East. Very much religious and associated to Vaishnav cult of Hinduism, the art form primarily depicts episodes from the life of Lord Vishnu. Manipuri dance style is multifaceted and ranges from the softest feminine to the vigorous masculine.
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.