Bharata Natyam is one of the oldest dance forms of India. It was nurtured in the temples and courts of southern India since ancient times. Later it was codified and documented as a performing art in the 19th century by four brothers known as the Tanjore Quartet whose musical compositions for dance form the bulk of the Bharata Natyam repertoire even today. The art was handed down as a living tradition from generation to generation under the Devadasi system under which women were dedicated to temples to serve the deity as dancers and musicians forming part of the elaborate rituals. These highly talented artists and the male gurus (nattuvanars) were the sole repository of the art until the early 20th century when a renewal of interest in India's cultural heritage prompted the educated elite to discover its beauty. Today Bharata Natyam is one of the most popular and widely performed dance styles and is practiced by male and female dancers all over India. Due to its wide range of movements and postures and the balanced mélange of the rhythmic and mimetic aspects lends itself well to experimental and fusion choreography. Degree and Post Graduate courses covering the practice and theory of Bharata Natyam as well as the languages associated with its development are available at major universities of India.
The traditional costume worn in Mohiniyattam is white with a gold border, and gold ornaments are worn. The unique coiffure with hair gathered on the left side of the head reflect it's aesthetic appeal, making it distinct from the other dance forms of India. The regional system of music that Mohiniyattam follows is the SOPANA style which in it's lyricism is evocative of the spiritual element.It was during the reign of the great Poet King, Maharaja Swati Tirunal that Mohiniyattam received considerable patronage. After his untimely demise, adverse circumstances led to the decline of this dance form till when in the 1930's Mahakavi Vallathol founded the Kerala Kalamandalam and once again revived the dance form.
Dance form Kuchipudi developed in what is now known as the state of Andhra Pradesh in southern India. Kuchipudi derives its name from the village Kuchelapuram, where it was nurtured by great scholars and artists who built up the repertoire and refined the dance technique. The technique of Kuchipudi makes use of fast rhythmic footwork and sculpture body movements. Stylized mime, using hand gestures and subtle facial expression, is combined with more realistic acting, occasionally including dialogues spoken by the dancers. In this blend of performance techniques, Kuchipudi is unique among the Indian classical dance styles. Kuchipudi today is performed either as a solo or a group presentation, but historically it was performed as a dance drama, with several dancers taking different roles. The themes are mostly derived form the scriptures and mythology, and the portrayal of certain characters is a central motif of this dance form. Kuchipudi is accompanied by Carnatic music. A typical orchestra for a Kuchipudi recital includes the mridangam, flute and violin. A vocalist sings the lyrics, and the nattuvanar conducts the orchestra and recites the rhythmic patterns.
Kerala Natanam can be called a stylised form of Kathakali. Guru Gopinath developed his own style that was appealing to the masses who were then devoid of art and dance, without compromising on the classical background. He never tried to reform Kathakali and to tamper with the originality and purity it possessed.He was instrumental to bring Kathakali out from the courtyards of upper class Brahmins and rajas and dance chambers of temples to the masses. His performances created a dance wave in Kerala, which had reprecations all over India in thirties and forties
Kathakali a highly classical Dance-Drama, is typical Kerala ballet of yore. It is being accepted as an international art form. Most colorful costumes, symbolical facial makeup, highly rhythmical steps, body movements and body posters ably support the language of Kathakali- the expressive code of gestures or hand signs "MUDRA" to convey message. The actors do not sing or say lines on the stage. The music is in our language Malayalam and Sanskrit that narrates the story and actors translate the meaning of music and convey in their language the gestures. Musician controls the stage. In Kathakali most of the stories are taken from the famous Hindu epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Bhagavata. The oil lamp is must for Kathakali being a devotional type of Dance drama and that symbolizes the presence of God. Make up is an interesting as well as an important part of this theatre- Kathakali. For Kathakali make up various mineral colors are being used. The especially of Kathakali make up is that you can understand the characteristics of the characters from the facial make up. The facial make up of Pacha( green) denotes a good, noble or royal characters. Similarly black indicates a powerful or wicked or demon, face in green color itself with knife( Kathi) like border on the cheeks in red color indicates a character gentle but brute at heart. The make up for ladies, sages are simple with brownish tinge on the face. The minimum course is 6 years for an actor. A student has to work 10 to 14 hours a day. Yearly oil massage for body in rainy season for 3 months makes the body of the actor flexible to dance with heavy steps by balancing the heavy costumes weighing about 20 to 30 KGS. Most of the costumes are made out of light wood and cloths it gives a total look of sur-realistic or divine characters
This dance form traces its origins to the nomadic bards of ancient northern India, known as Kathaks, or story tellers. These bards, performing in village squares and temple courtyards, mostly specialized in recounting mythological and moral tales from the scriptures, and embellished their recitals with hand gestures and facial expressions. It was quintessential theatre, using instrumental and vocal music along with stylized gestures, to enliven the stories. With the advent of Mughal culture, Kathak became a sophisticated chamber art. Patronized by art loving rulers, the practitioners of Kathak worked at refining its dramatic and rhythmic aspects, delighting elite audiences with their mastery over rhythm and the stylized mime. The technique of Kathak today is characterized by fast rhythmic footwork set to complex time cycles. The footwork is matched by the accompanying percussion instruments such as tabla and pakhawaj, and the dancer and percussionists often indulge in a virtuoso display of rhythmic wizardry .The dance movements include numerous pirouettes executed at lightning speed and ending in statuesque poses. The interpretative portion, based on tales of Radha and Krishna and other mythological lore, contains subtle gestures and facial expressions. Lucknow, Banaras and Jaipur are recognized as the three schools, or gharanas, where this art was nurtured and where the interpretative and rhythmic aspects were refined to a high standard
Odissi is the classical dance from of orissa in north east India. The classic treatise of Indian dance. Natya sasthra refers to it as Odra-Magadhi. It was suppressed under the British raj but has been reconstructed since India gained independence. It is particularly distinguished from other classical Indian dance forms by the importance it places upon the tribhangi (three parts break) the independent movement of head, chest and pelvis and upon the basic square stance known as chauka. The odissi tradition existed in three schools Mahari, NArtaki and Gotipua. Maharis were Orissan devadasis or temple girls particularly those at the temple of Jagannath at Puri. Early Maharis performed Nritha and Abhinaya based on the mantras and slokas, later Maharis performed dance sequences based on the lyrics of Jayadev’s Gita Govinda. By the sixth century the Gotipua tradition was emerging. Gotipuas were young boys dressed as girls and taught the dance by the Maharis. They danced to the compositions of the vaishnava poets in Oriya dedicated to Radha and Krishna. The Gotipuas stepped out of the precincts of the temples. Nartakai dance took place in the royal courts, where it was much cultivated before the British period. At that time the misuse of devadasis came under strong attack, so that Odissi dance withered in the temples and became unfashionable at court. Only the remnants of the gotipua school remained, and the reconstruction of the style required an archaeological and anthropological effort that has tended to foster a conservative purism