Classical Dances of India

Kathak Dance

Kathak Dance

This dance form traces its origins to the nomadic bards of ancient northern India known as Kathakaris, or story tellers. Thes bards, performing in village squares and temple courtyards, mostly specialised in recounting mythological and moral tales from the scriptures and ambellished their recitals with hand gestures and facial expressions. It was quintessential theatre using instrumental and vocal music along with stylised gestures to enliven the stories.

Bharata Natyam Dance

Bharata Natyam Dance

This is one of the oldest amd most popular forms of dance in India. Bharatha stands for Bhavana which is mood. Raga is music, and Tala is rhythm, while Natyam stands for Nritya. Movement, mime and music are given equal importance in this dance. The costumes used in a performance are elaborate. The dancer's dress consists of colourful silk cistumes, head-wear ornaments, necklacesa and bangles. Flowers are wound around a long plait.

Kathakali Dance

Kathakali Dance

Kathakali is the traditional dance of Kerala and is one of the oldest forms of theatre in the world. It is a combination of dance and drama where the actors depict characters from Indian mythology, mainly from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The facial expressions and hand grestures are an important facet of this dance form, enhanced by the traditional makeup and costumes. The makeup is of five types:

  1. Pacha
  2. Kathi
  3. Thadi
  4. Kari
  5. Minukku
The body movements and footwork in this dance are very rigorous.


Kuchipudi Dance

Kuchipudi Dance


Kuchipudi developed in the stste of Andhra Pradesh in southern India in a village called Kuchelapuram. According to tradition, Kuchipudi was originally performed only by Brahmin (priests) men.

Kuchipudi performances are dance dramas, commonly referred as Ata Bhagavatham. The technoque of Kuchipudi makes use of fast rhythmic footwork and sculpturesque body movements. Stylised minme, using hand gestures and subtle facial expressions, is combined with more realistic acting. Themes are mostly derived from the scriptures amd mythology and the portrayal of certain characters is a central motif of this dance form.


Odissi Dance

Odissi Dance

Odissi is a traditional dance of the state of Orissa, Originally, this form of dance was performed in temples as a religious offering ny the Maharis / Devadasis or temple dancers. The dance tries to capture human emotions of love and passion while keeping the performance soft and lyrical. Odissi is based on the popular devotion to Lord Krishna and the verses of the Sanskrit play Geet Govind, which are used to depict love and devotion to God. The dancers wear colourful costumes and traditional silver jewellery. Odissi dance performances involve a balance between pure dance and expressional dance with a combination of acting.

Chau Dance

Chau Dance

The Chhau ia a popular dance performed in Orissa, Bihar and West Bengal. In this dance the mask holds the dominant Rasa while the body creates, projects and develops the moods. Chhau has three schools, originating from

  1. Seraikelle in Bihar
  2. Mayurbhanj in Orissa
  3. Purulia in West Bengal
All three forms are primarily martial dances and are hence somewhat similar, however, the costume and make-up in each of these is very distinct.


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