The culture of India refers collectively to the thousands of distinct and unique cultures of all religions and communities present in India. Like all other aspects of life, the dance forms of India are also varied and different. Today, we are going to discuss different types of Indian Classical Dance forms that have always been an unavoidable part of our traditions. Now many of our viewers may get a common question, What is “Classical” dance? To answer this question, a classical dance form is characterized by grace and precision of movement and by elaborate formal gestures, steps, and poses. Classical Dance forms have several subforms originated in different parts of India. One of the most popular and oldest form of classical dance is Bharatnatyam (Tamil Nadu). The existence of which by 2nd century CE is noted in the ancient Tamil epic Silappatikaram. This form of dance is known to be Ekaharya, where one dancer takes on many roles in a single performance. The dance involves transitional movements of leg, hip and arm. Expressive eye movements and hand gestures are used to convey emotions The person who conducts the dance recitation is the Nattuvanar. In its usual form the dance is generally broken into seven main parts – Alarippu Jatiswaram Shabdam Varnam Padam Thillana and Mangalam. Can you believe it? A simple dance form can have these many parts to peep through the minds of people. Bharatnatyam poses are depicted on the Gopurams of the Chidambaram temple (Tamil Nadu). E. Krishna Iyer and Rukmini Devi Arundale have played a significant role in helping the dance regain its lost popularity and position. The second famous and one of the oldest dance form of India is Kathak. It was originated in North Indian regions It was primarily a temple or village performance wherein the dancers narrated stories from ancient scriptures. Kathak began evolving into a distinct mode of dance in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries with the spread of the Bhakti movement. Kathak was warmly welcomed in both Hindu and Muslim religions. The legends of Radha-Krishna were enacted in folk plays called Rasa Lila, which combined folk dance with the basic gestures of the Kathak story-tellers. Under the Mughal emperors and their nobles, Kathak was performed in the court, where it acquired its present features and developed into a form of dance with a distinctive style. Usually a solo performance, the dancer often pauses to recite verses followed by their execution through movement. The focus is more on footwork; the movements are skillfully controlled and performed straight-legged by dancers wearing ankle-bells. Lady Leela Sokhey (Menaka) revived the classical style. Some prominent dancers include Birju Maharaj and Sitara Devi. One of the most interactive and expressive dance form of South India is Kathakali, which originated in Kerala. Chakiarkoothu, Koodiyattam, Krishnattam and Ramanattam are few of the ritual performing arts of Kerala which have had a direct influence on Kathakali in its form and technique. Kathakali is a blend of dance, music and acting and dramatizes story. The dancers enact the roles (kings, gods, demons, etc.) of the stories with particular make-up and costume, the vocalists narrate the legend and the percussionists play the musical instruments. India is famous for its “unity in diversity”. This dance form is of no exception. Different facial colours indicate different mental stages & character, for example green – nobility, black – wicked, red patches – combining royalty and evil. Hand gestures, facial expressions and eye movements are important. Weight of the body is on the outer edges of the feet which are slightly bent and curved. Ramankutty Nair and Kalamandalam Gopi were the prominent artists. Kuchipudi, the Andhra Pradesh dance form, came from the name of a village in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh which has a very long tradition of dance-drama. It was known under the generic name of Yakshagaana. It is performed as dance drama i.e. performance in groups and also as solo items. Costumes and jewellery occupy an important place. The solo items are Manduka Shabdam (which is the story of frog maiden), Balgopala Taranga (which is the dance on the edges of brass plate with a pitcher full of water on head) and Tala Chitra Nritya (which is drawing pictures with dancing toes). Yamini Krishnamurthy and Raja Reddy are prominent dancers of this form. Mohiniyattam or dance of Mohini (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) is the classical solo dance form of Kerala. References of Mohiniyattam can be found in the texts, Vyavaharamala written in 1709 by, Mazhamangalam Narayanan Namputiri and in Ghoshayatra, written later by poet Kunjan Nambiar. It has the grace and elegance of Bharatanatyam and vigour of Kathakali but, is more erotic, lyrical and delicate. The Kasavu saree of Kerala and realistic makeup is also used. It was structured into the present-day classical format by the Travancore Kings, Maharaja Kartika Tirunal and his successor Maharaja Swati Tirunal (18th-19th century). It has mostly a solo performance by girls with circular movements, delicate footsteps and subtle expressions. Movements have been borrowed from Nangiar Koothu and female folk dances Kaikottikali and the Tiruvatirakali. Sunanda Nair and Pallavi Krishnan are the notable artists. Odissi is a soft dance backed by soothing lyrics and is similar to Bharatanatyam in terms of the mudras and expressions. The major subjects of performance are lores of incarnations of Lord Vishnu and verses of Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda. Termed as ‘mobile sculpture’ it incorporates two major postures – Tribhanga (in which the the body is deflected at the neck, torso and the knees) and Chowk (a position imitating a square). Sonal Mansingh and Kelucharan Mohapatra are the eminent performers The Sattriya dance form was introduced in the 15th century A.D by the Vaishnava saint and reformer of Assam. Because of its religious character and association with the Sattras (Vaishnava maths or monasteries), this dance style has been named Sattriya. Sattriya dance tradition is governed by strictly laid down principles in respect of hastamudras, footworks, aharyas, music etc. This tradition, has two distinctly separate streams – the Bhaona-related repertoire starting from the Gayan-Bhayanar Nach to the Kharmanar Nach, Secondly, the dance numbers which are independent, such as Chali, Rajagharia Chali, Jhumur, Nadu Bhangi etc. Among them, the Chali is characterized by gracefulness and elegance, while the Jhumur is marked by vigor and majestic beauty. One of the most famous Indian classical dance form is Manipuri. The name itself suggests that it originated in Manipur. The origin of Manipuri dance can be traced back to ancient times that go beyond recorded history. The dance in Manipur is associated with rituals and traditional festivals, there are legendary references to the dances of Shiva and Parvati and other Gods and Goddesses who created the universe. Lai Haraoba is the earliest form of dance which forms the basis of all stylised dances in Manipur. The principal performers are the maibas and maibis (priests and priestesses) who re-enact the theme of the creation of the world. Manipur dance has a large repertoire, however, the most popular forms are the Ras, the Sankirtana and the Thang-Ta. The Kirtan form of congregational singing accompanies the dance which is known as Sankirtana in Manipur. The male dancers play the Pung and Kartal while dancing. The dancers do not wear ankle bells to stamp out the rhythms in a theatrical display, as this interferes with the delicate body movements. These amazing 8 dance forms are still the assets of Indian Heritage and is carrying our traditional values since the ancient days and will continue to do so till infinity. Generations will go by, but the dance forms will only be passed down the family lines. We will always be proud of the legacy created by our ancestors.