There is really no such genre as folk dancing. Rather, there is a large body of unrelated non-classical dance forms. The only thing common among these dance forms is their rural origins. Many folk dances are performed by ordinary people rather than professional dancers. It is very usual that on special occasions, the villagers will gather and sing and dance, accompanying themselves on a variety of folk instruments.
A graceful, rather unique dance associated with the raas lila of Krishna and the gopis (female cowherds). This is danced by both men and women, moving in a circle holding and clicking painted sticks with attached bells. These are the famous dandiya sticks and have led to Garbha being referred to as dandiya raas. Formerly associated with the legend of Krishna, Garbha is now a regular feature during the Navratri puja (nine nights in honor and worship of the goddess Durga).
Ideally, two circles formed by men and women move in clockwise and anti-clockwise directions with two sticks called dandiyas held in their hands. The song sung on the occasion is essentially an amorous one. Raas is a very energetic, colourful and playful dance providing opportunity for acting and exchanging messages through eye contact. It is no wonder that many romances bloom during Navaratri and hence the popularity of the dance among the younger generation.
The most popular instinctive dance of men in Punjab, Bhangra , if not the most robust, is one of India's popular folk dances. This dance is performed during the Baisakhi festival to the accompaniments and songs of Dholak. The dancers snap their fingers, do balancing tricks and indulge in acrobatic feats. They recite witty couplets known as bolis and out of sheer exuberance mouth meaningless sounds such as hoay, hoay. The dancers are dressed in lungis and turbans. The drummer usually takes his place in the centre of the circle. The counterpart of the Bhangra is the Gidha, danced by womanfolk. The dance is a group number, but often individual dancers or pairs detach themselves from the group and perform while the rest keep clapping in rhythm. In this as in the Hikat of Kashmir, pairs of dancers go round and round with the feet planted at one place. The festival of Teeyan, to welcome the rains is the principal time for the Gidha.
Gentler than the Bhangra, the Gidda is danced by women and young girls on family and festive occasions. The girls and women form a circle, with one of their number in the center. The tradition of Boliyan (light-hearted satirical verse) is observed here as well, and is as much a part of the dance as are the colorful regional dresses. The dholki drum provides music and often singers keep music by tapping spoons on the body of the drum.
Manipuri. Performed still in temples and religious occasions, inextricably woven into the lives of the people of Manipur, this dance form is a very much living tradition. A genuine Manipuri dance performance offers a glimpse of a rare and ancient civilization still extant. This style is multifaceted, ranging from the softest feminine to the obviously vigorous masculine. Dignified grace is to be found in every aspect and the range it offers in technique, rhythmics and tempo makes a Manipuri recital an absorbing and exhilarating experience. Manipuri dance is a generic name and covers all the dance forms of this land. According to legend, Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati danced in the valleys of Manipuri to the accompaniment of the Ghandharvas to the celestial light of Mani (jewel) from the head of the Atishesha, a serpant and that is how it has come to be called Manipuri.
Tamasha / Lavani Dance
Lavani is a musical discussion. It has something in common with the bow-song. It is performed in the months of April-May to herald the coming of spring chiefly in Thanjavur district, the culturally important areas in Tiruchirappalli district and in Madurai district.
One team argues that Manmatha or Kaman, the god of love was burnt to death by lord Shiva and that it was a physical act reducing him to ashes. The other team argues that it was an allegory. What was burnt was Kama or Carnal desire and maintains that Kaman never died and that he has ingrained himself in the heart of countless souls. In counter-arguments and rebuttals, ideas or religion and ethics are put forward to the accompaniment of drum music provided by each of the singers in the group. References are made to the Puranas and the Shastras. The performance lasts a whole night and groups of singers treat the crowd to great entertainment by their fluency of thought and speech. At the end of the Lavani performance, a replica of Manmathas mount is burnt. The earlier and original Kaman pandigai of the Tamils is said to have consisted of dirge songs in front of a symbolical representation of Manmatha.
In the state of Maharashtra, religious devotional dances are called Dindi. The musicians for this dance comprise a "Mridangam" player and vocalist who give the dancers the necessary musical background. This dance is usally performed on the Ekadashi day in the month of Kartik.
Bihu is the most popular folk dance of Assam. The people of Assam are very proud of it and rightly so. Except Bhangra no other folk dance in India can compete with the rythmic exuberance of Bihu. Bihu dances performed by young boys and girls characterised by brisk stepping, flinging and flipping of hands and swaying of hips represents youthful passion, reproductive urge and 'Joie-de-vivre'.