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August 15, 2012

Indian Classical Dances

All Indian classical dance forms are really great not only to watch and enjoy but also to understand the greatest influence of nonverbal communication in our daily lives. They mesmerize audience and keep their attention focused on dancers and drama they play out. Their costume add to the overall effect their performances want to produce and impression they want to leave on the minds of audience.

Dancers often enact as mythological story tellers or actual characters of the story on the stage. However, they can convey message related to different subjects from the real life and current affairs too. They can portray virtually any tangible or intangible entity and concept we have ever invented or imagined so far. Animals and creatures are also included in the acts.

They thoroughly utilize facial (micro) expressions, postures, gestures, emblems, proxemics and body movements to enact their roles very lively and dramatically. It always results into an overwhelming performance. Many western performing artists have invented or developed hybrid dance forms by taking an inspiration from Indian Classical Dance forms.

With charismatic costume, jewelries, accessories, body decoration, make-up and music; each dance form is unique by itself. Still, they are are strongly connected with each shared aspects like exuberance, sophistication and dedication.

Following are the Indian Classical Dance forms:

  • Kathak (कथक) - Classical dance from Northern India, inheriting few aspects from Persian (Iranian) and Central Asian dance forms
  • Bharatanatyam (भरतनाट्यम) - Classical dance from the state of Tamil Nadu
  • Kathakali (कथकली) - Classical dance from the state of Kerala
  • Kuchipudi (कुचीपुड़ी) - Classical dance from the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
  • Manipuri (मणिपुरी) - Classical dance from the state of Manipur
  • Mohiniaattam (मोहिनीअट्टम) - Classical dance from the state of Kerala
  • Odissi (ओडिसी) - Classical dance from the state of Odisha
  • Sattriya (सत्रिया) - Classical dance from the state of Assam

  • Like different elements of body language, these dance forms also use various elements to express physical, emotional and social status and conditions. Their original names are in Sanskrit language as described in Natya-Shashtra (नाट्य शास्त्र) i. e. an ancient Indian treatise on the performing arts (theater, dance and music).

    Basic elements of all Indian Classical Dance forms are: 1) Kaaranas (Transitional movements or postural alternations) 2) Hastas (Hand gestures) 3) Adavus (Series of movements or expressions) 4) Bhedas (Eye contact, different gazes and neck/head movements)

    Dr. Paul Ekman discovered the universality of facial expressions subjected to seven basic emotions in 20th century. However, Indian classical dancers have been portraying Nav-Rasas (Nine distinct psychological states or emotions) on their bodies and faces since thousands of years. Perhaps, Dr. Ekman himself might have taken the inspiration from the same.

    Nine different facial emotional expressions include in Nav-Rasas (Nine Emotions) are Shringara (Love, Affection or Amour), Hasya (Happiness, Enjoyment or Laughter), Karuna (Kind-heartedness, Empathy or Compassion), Raudra (Anger), Veera (Valour), Bhayanaka (Terror), Bheebhatsya (Disgust), Adbutha (Surprise) and Shantha (Peace or Tranquility).

    Actually, these nine distinct psychological states or emotions can't be fully expressed without involving the entire body in the process. Especially, both body posture and hand movements change dramatically between one emotion to the other. You can watch full body portrayal of nine emotions right below.

    According to me, Veera (Valour) is almost equivalent to the emotional expression of Contempt. There're shared similarities like flexing neck, looking forward, standing/sitting straight and expanding body. If you just add an asymmetric smile or scorn to expression of Veera (Valour) then both would appear exactly the same. Wouldn't they?

    Not just Asians, Indians or people of Indian origin but also many notable artists, researcher and scholars across the globe are inspired from classical dance forms of India.

    Watch this YouTube video briefly demonstrating the power of Mudras (Expressions and Gestures) to portray different elements in dance.

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