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Indian Classical Dances

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

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. They can portray virtually any tangible or intangible entity and concept we have ever invented or imagined so far.

They utilize facial (micro) expressions, postures, gestures, emblems, proxemics and movements to enact them very lively and dramatically. Many western performing artists have invented hybrid dance forms by taking an inspiration from Indian Classical Dance forms.

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) - an ancient Indian treatise on the performing arts (theater, dance and music).

Basic elements of all 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 found 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 faces since thousands of years. Dr. Ekman might have taken the inspiration from the same.

Nine different emotions included in Nav-Rasas are Shringara (Love, Affection or Amour), Hasya (Happiness or Laughter), Karuna (Kind-heartedness or Compassion), Raudra (Anger), Veera (Courage), Bhayanaka (Terror), Bheebhatsya (Disgust), Adbutha (Surprise) and Shantha (Peace or tranquility).

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

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

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 state of Tamil Nadu
  • Kathakali (कथकली) - Classical dance from state of Kerala
  • Kuchipudi (कुचीपुड़ी) - Classical dance from states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
  • Manipuri (मणिपुरी) - Classical dance from state of Manipur
  • Mohiniaattam (मोहिनीअट्टम) - Classical dance from state of Kerala
  • Odissi (ओडिसी) - Classical dance from state of Odisha
  • Sattriya (सत्रिया) - Classical dance from state of Assam
Watch this YouTube video briefly demonstrating the power of Mudras (Expressions and Gestures) to portray different elements in dance.

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