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The Rich History of Indian Classic Dance Forms

Dance means different to different individuals. For some, it is worship of an art form, for others it is a way to their express emotions - happiness, joy or sadness. The well known writer Paulo Coelho says, ‘When you dance, you can enjoy the luxury of being you.” For centuries, civilizations have been engrossed in some form of dance to express varied norms and rituals. Indian culture is one such kind, where the relation of dance is deeply rooted in history. However, it is uncertain to trace the rise of Indian dance forms, but its sacredness has been discussed in the 1st century AD by Bharat Muni in the holy book ‘Natya Shastra”. The book is a testimony of defining superiority and excellence of dance in Indian culture. The book has a collection of theories of dance and music that explains its law and representation.

Principles of Indian dance forms in Natya Shastra

According to Natya Shastra, dance is classified into two types. These are Tandava and Lasya. Tandava is a pictorial allergy of eternal energy and is performed by Lord Shiva, whereas, the latter is a gentle, graceful dance expressing happiness. Lasya in Hindu mythology is performed by Goddess Parvati. The holy book describes human values in nine bhava and they are:

- Shringara (love, pleasure)
- Veer (vigor, heroic)
- Rudra (anger, fury)
- Bhay (fear, concern)
- Ghrana (disgust, repulsive)
- Hasya (comic, mocking)
- Karun (pathetic, sad)
- Vishmaya (wondrous, Marvel)
- Shaant (peace, tranquility)

The purpose of the dance is to create Ras, which depicts the spiritual estate of the dancer in front of viewers. Indian classical music and dance are based on theories discussed in Natya Shastra.

Techniques of Indian classical dances

The concept of Indian classical dance according to Natya Shastra circles around four actions:

1- Expressing emotion through the stylistic operation of body organs
2- Vocal cords, speech style, and songs
3- Costumes
4- Psychological resources

Judges in classical music competitions, count the performer's postures and use of each body part, of which eyes and hands are most important. Each dance form from varied parts of India has its own set of a complex repository of stylized pose which is traditionally determined.

In a nutshell

The Indian classical dance is as diverse and rich as its culture, food, language, and dressing. Not just classical dance, varied tribal communities across the country have their own distinctive style which is celebrated and enjoyed all over the world.

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