Sunday, 24 February 2013

Dancing Styles Of INDIA


            Dance is an Art which expresses our inner emotion without talking. It varies depending upon the social, cultural norms and aesthetic, moral, artistic sensibilities. There are many styles and genres of dance in our India. In the matter of dance Bharata Muni’s – Natyashastra (the text of dramaturgy) is one of the earlier texts. Though the main theme is of drama, dance is also widely featured and indeed the 2 concepts have ever since been linked in Indian culture. Dance is categorized into four groups: Secular , Ritual, Abstract, Interpretive. Indian classical dances are varied basing on the common features such as the mudras, body positioning and Abhinayam. The Indian classical music tradition provides the accompaniment for the dance, and as percussion is such an integral part of the tradition, the dancers of nearly all the styles wear bells around their ankles to counterpoint and complement the percussion.

            Today I took the privilege to let all know what is India in dance believing “Pure dance is the heartbeat of a dance style and mime its very soul. Melody, rhythm and verse are its constant accompaniment and inspiration.”

                    Kuchipudi is one of the classical styles of Indian dance. Around the third and fourth decade of this century . Kuchipudi is the name of a village in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. It is about 35 km. from Vijayawada. It was here that Siddhendra Yogi first developed a unique and particular style based on the “Natya Shastra” and “Nandikeshwar’s Bharatarnava.”

                    According to Bharatamava, there are two major varieties of hasta mudras (symbols of the hand), the asamyuta (single) and the samyuta (combined). These are used at different levels of the body, in different directions and in various configurations to mean a variety of things.

 Symbols for the single hand:

                      There are twenty-eight asamyuta mudras classified as Pataka, Tripataka, Ardha-pataka, Kartari-Mukha, Mayura, Ardha-chandra, Arala, Shukatundaka, Mushti, Shikhara, Kapittha, Kataka-mukha, Suchi, Chandrakala, Padmakosha, Sarpa-Shirsha, Mriga-shirsha, Simha-mukha, Langula, Sola-padma, Chatura, Bharamara, Hamsasya, Hamsapaksha, Samdamsa, Mukula, Tamrachuda and Trishula.
a beautiful classical pose, formed by changing the hands and legs in dance, conditioned by the mood or flavour, is known as a karana. Bharata, in the Natya Shastra, merely defines a karana as a combined movement of the feet and the hands which, though momentarily static, is a dynamic series of movements which culminates in a specific pose.The karanas are beautiful aspects of dance, believed to have originated with Shiva-Nataraja’s Tandava. Pandits like Somanathkavi, Abhinavagupta and Sarangadeva suggested their use along with bhava so as to expand their utility into the realm of abhinaya. Over the years, gurus interpreted karanas with expressions in the Bhagavata Mela Natakam style, thereby incorporating these karanas into javalis and padams.

The hundred and eight karnaas as described in the Natya Shastra
Pushpaputa : handful of flowers.
Vartita : Inverted.
Valitorukam : Turned thighs or thighs filded in.
Apaviddha : Violent shaking-off.

              While Shiva performed the Tandava, several karanas were linked together as a garland of dance poses with the help of rechakas. 
Sthirahasta : Lina, Nikuttitam, urudvrutta, Swastika, Akshipta, Nitamba, karihasta and Katichinna...
Paryasthaka : Puspaputa, Apavidaha, Vartita, Nikuttitam, Urudvrutta, Nitamba, Karihasta, and Katichinna.
Suchividdha : Vikshipta, Avarta, Nikuttitam, Urudvrutta, Akshipta, Uromandala, karihasta and katichinna.
Apaviddha : Apaviddha, Suchividdha, Uromandala and katichinna.

             Kuchipudi, the dainty dance form of Andhra Pradesh is profoundly aesthetic and the experience of watching it live is most exhilarating and cannot be expressed in wordsA raga (musical mode) with its unique and individual pattern is the soul of Indian music. Each raga has a special structure of fixed notes. It is the way in which a musician utilises this structural form that makes for the full expression of the different melodic types. Ancient authors gave the essential characteristics of ragas as the utilisation of special notes while avoiding some notes and rendering others with embellishments or graces (alankaras). Interestingly ragas were meant, according to their emotional appeal, to be sung only at certain times a day. They were also associated with visual images. For instance, the raga Bhairavi, the South Indian Mayamalavagaula is described as " a beautiful sanyasi, his face smeared with white ashes. He wears a white scarf and around his neck is a garlend of rubies. From his earrings hang pendants and on his forehead shines the crescent moon. Matted locks crown his head. He has the ekatara, one stringed instrument, in his hand ans is seated upon a white bull. He is engaged in meditation on the banks of Ganges river"

                      Bharatanatyam is a sophisticated and multi-faceted, dancing art of the state Tamil Nadu.
It is based on the theories of  “Natyashastram” and “Abhinaya darpanam.” The dance form is based on 'Adavu' (steps) and 'Hasthamudra' (hand gestures).

                      There are 64 basic 'Adavu' and they are divided into 9 parts, on which 'Thattadavu', 'Naatadavu', 'Kuthithumettadavu', 'Mandiadavu', 'Sarikkal' and 'Thattumettu' are very important. Communication is done through 'bhavabhinaya' (facial expression) and 'hasthamudra' (hand gestures).The symmetrical patterns formed around the body of the dancer convey the relationship between the dancer and the universe around her.

                      The sequence of the dance performance is 'Alarippu', 'Jathiswaram', 'Sabdam',  'Varnam', 'Padam' and 'Thillana'. After 'Thillana', with a 'Mangala Slokam' the dance program ends.
The costume is paijama and jacket of Kanchipuram silk and Banaras silk. The dancer wears a lot of ornaments of shining stones on neck, ears, hands, and head, jasmin garland in the hair and foot trinklet with small bells.

                      The music of Bharatanatyam is based on Carnatic classical music. The instruments used are Veena, Flute, Mridangam and Violin.

            Andhra Natyam is rather a new classical dance tradition that is slowly becoming popular in India. For a casual observer, it might seem to be a combination of Bharata Natyam and Kuchipudi. Andhra Natyam has it's own distinctive style and identity. Dr. Nataraja Rama Krishna is the leading exponent and teacher in this dance tradition. He researched and learned this dance traditions from the villages of Andhra and revived this magnificent dance style. It has the purity and complexity of Bharata Natyam technique and the grace and fluidity of Kuchipudi. The dancer's costumes are one the most elegant and feminine looking. All the songs and verses are set is the language Telugu to the Carnatic music tradition.

            Perini Shiva Tandavam comes from the same region as Andhra Natyam. This is in the tandava style, currently being learned and performed by males. It was known that, the soldiers before going into a war perform Perini dances to energize and  stimulate themselves. Usually performed by group of dancers, the fast rhythms, leaps and jumps create an unique mood.

                       It is indigenous to Manipur, the north-eastern state of India and the indigenous people of this valley were said to be the dance-expert Gandharva's, mentioned in the epic Ramayana, Mahabharata and other religious scriptures.

                       Manipuri dance is purely religious and its aim is a spiritual experience. Development of music and dance has through religious festivals and daily activities of the Manipuri people. Not only is dance a medium of worship and enjoyment, a door to the divine, but indispensable for all socio-cultural ceremonies. From the religious point of view and from the artistic angle of vision, Manipuri Classical Form of dance is claimed to be one on the most chestiest, modest, softest and mildest but the most meaningful dances of the world.
                       The most obliging aspect of Manipuri culture is that, it has retained the ancient ritual based dances and folk dances along with the later developed classical Manipuri dance style. Among the classical categories, 'Ras Leela' - a highly evolved dance drama, choreographed on 'Vaishnavite Padavalis' composed by mainly eminent Bengali poets and some Manipuri Gurus, is the highest expression of artistic genius, devotion and excellence of the Manipuris.

                         Odissi traces its origins to the ritual dances performed in the temples of ancient northern India. Today the name Odissi refers to the dance style of the state of Orissa in eastern India. Like other classical arts of India, this ancient dance style had suffered a decline as temples and artists lost the patronage of feudal rulers and princely states, and by the 1930s and 40s, there were very few surviving practitioners of the art.

                         The current form of Odissi is the product of a 20th century revival. Dedicated scholars and dance enthusiasts carefully researched manuscripts and studied the sculpture, painting and poetry of the region. They also met and observed the performances of the few existing performers, in order to revive and restructure Odissi as a unique classical dance style adapted to the requirements of formal stage presentation. Over the years Odissi has become one of the most popular classical dance styles.

                         Like other Indian classical dance forms, Odissi has two major facets: Nritta or non-representational dance, in which ornamental patterns are created using body movements in space and time; and Abhinaya, or stylized mime in which symbolic hand gestures and facial expressions are used to interpret a story or theme.

                        The divine love tales of Radha and the cowherd God Krishna are favourite themes for interpretation, and a typical recital of Odissi will contain at least one or two ashtapadis (poem of eight couplets) from Jayadeva's Gita Govindam, which describes in exquisite Sanskrit poetry the complex relationship between Radha and her Lord.

                        The technique of Odissi includes repeated use of the tribhangi, or thrice deflected posture, in which the body is bent in three places, approximating the shape of a helix. This posture and the characteristic shifting of the torso from side to side, make Odissi a difficult style to execute. When mastered, it is the epitome of fluid grace and has a distinctively lyrical quality that is very appealing.

                       The movements in Odissi are lyrical, perhaps due to the curved, rolling and spiral nature of the style. The neck movements follow a natural tilt of the head in relation to the angle of the torso and maintain a central line with that of the upper half of the body. The neck also moves sideways, as opposed to being tilted to the sides.

                        The hands are used in Odissi around the frame of the body in various ways. Circular Movements and semi-circular extensions of the arms moving downwards or upwards from the center of the chest to the sides are often seen. Often one hand is placed above the head, encircling it as it were and the other extended along the line of the leg, in a relaxed position, like that seen in sculptures all over India.

                         Dance is an expression of individual's joy through movement. This pure expression and release of energy, when in the classical mold, must strictly adhere to the codes of a systematized technique.

            The word Kathak is derived from katha, meaning "the art of storytelling." It is also synonymous with the community of artists known as Kathakas whose hereditary profession it was to narrate history while entertaining. With dance, music and mime these storytellers of ancient India would bring to life the great scriptures and epic so ancient times, especially the great Indian epics - the Mahabharata and the Ramayana - and the Puranas of Sanskrit literature. 

            From its early form as a devotional expression dedicated to the Hindu gods, Kathak gradually moved out of the temples and into the courts of the rulers; the Hindu maharajas and the Muslim nawabs (kings). With these rulers' cultural wealth and preoccupation with lavish entertainment, a class of dancing girls and courtesans emerged to entertain the palaces. Much later, during the mid-1800's, Kathak enjoyed a renaissance and gained prominence among the kings and zamindars (feudal overlords) not only as a form of entertainment, but as a classical art form. In the Hindu courts of the vast semi-desert of the principality of Rajasthan, kathak developed in the Jaipur gharana (school), a regional style emphasizing the technical mastery of pure dance. To the east in the court of Wajid Ali Shah, the last nawab of Oudh and himself a student of Kathak, the dance emphasized dramatic and sensuous expression and developed into the style characteristic of the Lucknow gharana. This gharana is said to have originated with Wajid Ali Shah's court dancer Thakur Prasadji. 

            The lineage of Kathak dance can be traced from generation to generation, father to son, guru to disciple. Thakur Prasadji's nephews, Binda Din Maharaj and Kalka Prasad, excelled in the study of Kathak. Binda Din's three nephews, Achhan, Lacchu and Shambhu Maharaj, helped carry the Kathak tradition into the twentieth century. Achhan Maharaj, and upon his death, Shambhu Maharaj, had among his many disciples Ram Narayan Misra and Prohlad Das, respectively guru and father of Chitresh Das.
Pure dance Kathak is an expression of the pure joy of movement and what is immediately recognized as rhythmic abandon. The feet, with bells strung around the ankles, beat out a whole range of rhythmic sounds and deflections. Skill in rendering this is fundamental to the style.

                   Kathakali means a story play or a dance drama. Katha means story. Belonging to the South-Western coastal state of Kerala, Kathakali is primarily a dance drama form and is extremely colourful with billowing costumes, flowing scarves, ornaments and crowns. The dancers use a specific type of symbolic makeup to portray various roles which are character-types rather than individual characters. Various qualities, human, godlike, demonic, etc., are all represented through fantastic make-up and costumes. 

                   The world of Kathakali is peopled by noble heroes and demons locked in battle, with truth winning over untruth, good over evil. The stories from the two epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, as well as the Puranas constitute the themes of the Kathakali dance dramas.

                    The macro and micro movements of the face, the movements of the eyebrows, the eyeballs, the cheeks, the nose and the chin are minutely worked out and various emotions are registered in a flash by a Kathakali actor-dancer. Often men play the female roles, though of late women have taken to Kathakali. 

                     The pure dance element in Kathakali is limited to kalasams, decorative dance movements alternating with an expressional passage where the actor impersonates a character, miming to the liberetto sung by the musician. A cylindrical drum called chenda, a drum called maddalam held horizontally, cymbals and a gong form the musical accompaniment, and two vocalists render the songs. Using typical music known as Sopanam, Kathakali creates a world of its own. 

                    The most striking feature of Kathakali is its overwhelming dramatic quality. But its characters never speak. It is danced to the musical compositions, involving dialogues, narration and continuity. It employs the lexicon of a highly developed hand-gesture language which enhances the facial expressions and unfolds the text of the drama.

            Performance begins after dark, with the drums rolling out ornate rhythmic patterns, beckoning to the audience to witness the spectacle. The characters slowly emerge as the evening progresses. Time is not a constraint. Great enactments are done and superb virtuosity displayed. Through that magical night the audience is swayed from alertness to drowsiness and back again. A battle climax the night's performance.
The noise gets almost deafening. The audience is carried on the suspense of the outcome. There is furious activity on the stage, a flurry of costumes and swords wielded high. It is the grand world of drama. Reality comes with the dawn.