Traveling through History Lane : Naach-Gaana

Music and dance are almost like second identities of our country, after Bollywood that is. They make for a very colourful backdrop for our cultural landscape. We all have musically gifted friends, the bathroom singers, and the ones whose major contribution to world peace by never ever attempting to sing. So I’m going to skip over the history lesson on the evolution of music and dance, because well, Google will tell you more about that than I can. 😛 and I want to keep this post short, what I will do though, is talk about my favourite dance forms so, here’s my take on things I like to form opinions about 😛 So Naach today and then Gaana (in the next post) –

I love dance because of the fluid and free flowing emotion, raw passion, invigorating bliss, gut wrenching sorrow, and the ability to speak without saying anything at all. When we say actions speak louder than words, dance never fails to deliver. Each traditional Indian dance form is said to correspond to an element in nature. Bharat Natyam – fire, Odissi – water, Kuchipudi – earth, Mohiniattam – air, Kathakali – sky, space or ether.  If you look at the dance forms elementally and their geographical locations, something doesn’t quite add up, or maybe it does. Fire in Tamil Nadu, Water in Odisha (Orissa), Earth in Andhra Pradesh, Air and Ether in Kerela. If we look at it in clusters of 3 (state wise), it adds up on 2 levels. In the first cluster consider Fire, Earth and Water – it is much like our planet, covered by oceans, at the base of which is land, and at the very core, molten smoldering fire; in the second cluster consider, Fire, Earth, and Space and Air – we see how fire needs a base to burn, which would be earth, yet it cannot really blaze, without air, and air cannot exist without space – if this isn’t a little Buddha moment, I don’t know what is.

See, that is how powerful dance is, unfurling secrets of the universe with simply an elemental association; imagine the power it holds, as a form of expression.

Bharat Natyam : 3-Bharatnatyam

The movements of an authentic Bharata Natyam dancer resemble the movements of a dancing flame, blissfully ablaze. In its authentic form, it is a solo performance with masculine and feminine facets to it. It’s a very dissociative identity disorder kind of beautiful dance form, and I say so because the dancer in course of the performance moves between characters so often and gracefully, it becomes hard to not make such a parallel. Character changes are aided by music, song and expression, and in terms of movement, typically indicated by the swish of a full circle. Again subtly hinting at how life changes, sometimes slowly, sometimes all of a sudden, does a full 360; you are never the same person you were when the journey began.




The traditional Odissi repertoire consists of Mangalacharana which is a prayer piece, about paying homage to the Gods and apologising to Mother Earth for stepping upon her. Then there’s Batuka Bhairava, performed to honour Shiva – the cosmic Lord of Dance, believed to have originated from Tantrism, and is the most difficult form of Odissi dance, beginning with a series of poses which depict Shiva in his various forms as sculpted in the temples of Odisha which are strung together by rhythm and a few steps. The absence of song or recitation leaves one spellbound and awed by the change in pace, rhythm, tempo and structure. The concluding segment is always performed high on energy, as against a slow relaxed tempo that most dance forms usually adhere to. Pallavi, starts with slow, graceful & lyrical movements of the eyes, neck, torso & feet & slowly builds in a crescendo to climax in a fast tempo at the end. Both the dance and the music evolve in complexity as the dancer traces multiple patterns in space, interpreting the music dexterously in the multilayered dimensions of rhythm and speed. Abhinaya is an expressional dance, an enactment of a song or poetry, where a story conveyed to the audience through mudras (hand gestures), bhaavas (facial expression), eye movement and body movement. The dance is very graceful, and sensual. Moksha, always the end piece, is a spiritual zenith for the dancer who transcends to the sphere of untainted aesthetic delight. The dance moves onto a crescendo that is awe-inspiring to both, the eye and the ear. With the cosmic sound of the “Om”, the dance fades away slowly melting away into oblivion. Salvation, granted.

Kuchipudi: kuchipudi

Kuchipudi dancers are beautifully dazzling and perform with grace, fluidity, and earthy movements. Performed to Carnatic music in its solo exposition Kuchipudi numbers include ‘jatiswaram’ and ’tillana’ whereas in nrityam it has several lyrical compositions reflecting the desire of a devotee to merge with God. The songs in Kuchipudi are mimed with alluring expressions, swift looks and fleeting emotions evoking the rasa.


mohiniyattamThe Mohiniyattam dance is performed by the subtle gestures and footwork of the danseuse reminiscent of the swinging of the palm leaves in the cool breeze as it slowly dances upon the gentle rivers which abound Kerala, the land of Mohiniyattam. There are approximately 40 basic movements, known as atavukal, each of which is designed to elate the mind and not lure the senses.



Kathakali :

220px-Kathakali_Performance_Close-upIs a perfect blend between acting and dancing, typically performed in the night, going on into the wee hours of the morning. One is presented with a plethora of emotions served on a multicoloured platter. Though most of the songs are set in ragas based on the microtone-heavy Carnatic music, there is a distinct style of plain-note rendition, which is known as the Sopanam style. A distinguishing characteristic of this art form is that the actors never speak but use hand gestures, expressions and rhythmic dancing instead of dialogue (but for a couple of rare characters). One of the most interesting aspects of Kathakali is its elaborate make-up code. The differences between these sets lie in the predominant colours that are applied on the face. Pachcha (meaning green) has green as the dominant colour and is used to portray noble male characters that face the conflict between good and bad. Anti heroes are portrayed with streaks of red in a green-painted face. Excessively evil characters such as demons have a predominantly red make-up and a red beard. Tamasic characters such as uncivilised hunters and woodsmen are represented with a predominantly black make-up base and a black beard. Women and ascetics have lustrous, yellowish faces.


With this, I’ll stop right here. So much so for keeping it short! 😛


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