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Home > Dance History

Indian Classical Dance by Yogita Kulkarni

In ancient times, Indian classical dance was a way of worship to reach God, it was the greatest form of Indian expression. When an Indian classical dancer starts dancing, a prayer is recited; "the whole universe be thy body, the whole literature, your speech, the moon and stars, your ornaments, I bow down to thy who is form of purity (expression)". Now as this prayer is recited, it is a reminder for the artist to pay attention to all four aspects of the performance; body movement, music/lyrics, costume and purity of expression.

These four aspects are transformed into a full stage performance which reaches a wide audience. The goal is not just decoration, but intricate expression. Each and every part of the dancer's body has its own importance. Indian classical dance focuses not only on intricate face expression and hand gestures, but isolated movement that is sharp and rhythmic.Each expression has specific properties. The dancer is specific and consistent in their portrayal of basic expression; a pleasant expression is expressed with a lifted body, graceful hands and feet, cheeks blown, lips open in a smile, eye balls wide, and eye brows active.

Also, there is a unique specialty of Indian classical dancers; the hand gestures. These hand gestures are so elaborate that an artist can translate almost every word through them. While the feet follow rhythm, the hands and face follow lyrics. This technique translates emotion and meaning, it is an eye-pleasing experience to see the dancer's sheer joyful footwork and graceful body movement.

The music used in Indian dancing are most always about God. It is a sacred thing. Generally in the composition, the dancer is supposed to be a heroine, a God or a king. Otherwise it's common to see the part of the bride being portrayed. The traditional shiny bride costume and rich combination of ornaments decorate the dancer as they move through a series of face and arms expressions. The costumes are made of silk, satin and ornaments of metal including pearls, stones or other beads.

The emotional expression is the most important part of Indian classical dances, which are mostly performed solo. The technique is elaborate, and a dancer oftentimes portrays a variety of characters within one dance performance. The several characters must be portrayed without changing attire; just solely through body language.

All these aspects make Indian classical dance very interesting to watch. It is very challenging for the dancer and takes hard work. A performer can't perform without years of proper training. The sudden changes of expression have to be bold and convincing. This is only a glimpse of the art; it is colorful, widely diverse and one of the most interesting world dance forms.

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