Scientific Portal on Body Language, Kinesics, and Nonverbal Communication#

Indian classical dances


Indian classical dance forms are really great not only to watch but also to understand great influence of nonverbal communication in our life. Most people might attribute these dance forms to antiquity and specific to a culture and tradition of certain geographical area or civilization. However, these dance forms portray broad spectrum of emotions and feelings that any individual on this earth probably harbor at unconscious level.

Dancers often enact as mythological story tellers or actual characters of story on stage but they can convey message related to different subjects from real life. They can portray virtually any tangible or intangible entity and concept. 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 - an ancient Indian treatise on the performing arts (theatre, dance and music). Basic elements of all dance forms are: 1) Karanas (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. But Indian classical dancers have been portraying Nav-Rasas (Nine distinct psychological states or emotions) since more than thousand years. 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, jeweleries, accessories, body decoration, make-up and music; each dance form is unique. Yet they are are strongly connected with each through shared aspects like exuberance, sophistication and dedication. Not just Indians or people belonging to oriental cultures 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 - Classical dance from Northern India inheriting few aspects from Persian (Iranian) and Central Asian dance forms
  • Bharatanatyam - Classical dance from Tamil Nadu
  • Kathakali - Classical dance from Kerala
  • Kuchipudi - Classical dance from Andhra Pradesh
  • Manipuri - Classical dance from Manipur
  • Mohiniaattam - Classical dance from Kerala
  • Odissi - Classical dance from Orissa
  • Sattriya - Classical dance from Assam
Watch this YouTube video briefly demonstrating the power of Mudras (Expressions and Gestures) to portray different elements in dance.


Related Articles: