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Dances of India

Dance and music are an integral part of Indian life. Brahma, the supreme Creator, is believed to have created Natya by taking literature from the Rig Veda, songs from Sam Veda, abhinaya or expression from Yajur Veda and rasa or aesthetic experience from Atharva Veda.

It speaks in great detail of the different kinds of postures, facial expressions, mudra or hand expressions, and the attire and ornaments to be used. All dance forms are structured around the nine rasa or emotions. They are hasya (happiness), shoka (sorrow), krodha (anger), karuna (compassion), bhibasta (disgust), adhbhuta (wonder), bhaya (fear), viram (courage) and shanta (serenity). The uniqueness of Indian classical dances is that they are all devotional in content.

Folk dances have gained more popularity, as they are easier to understand and perform. They do not require the skill and expertise of a classical dance performer. They are performed by the rural folk and are extremely enjoyable. Almost every village has its folk dances.

You need to start learning dance at the age of five.It is not compulsory to start at the age of five but the earlier the better. For the Dance movements one needs to have a flexible body and hence youngsters can learn the steps easily due to their flexibility. There are different dance forms and to master any of them needs at least 10 to 12 years of training and practice. Given below are the descriptions of the different dance forms of India 

Bharat Natyam

This dance is the oldest of the classical dance forms, and its origins can be traced to Bharatha’s Natya Shastra. It is a highly traditional and stylized dance form. Strict about the techniques used in performing it disallows any kind of innovations except in the repertoire and forms of presentation. It developed in South India, in its present form, two hundred years ago. It is essentially a solo dance and its sophistication and stylization make it a unique form of art-dance.


Kathak finds its roots in katha- story. A band of storytellers, attached to temples in Northern India, narrated stories from epics. Later they added mime and gesture to their recitation. The popularity of the Radha-Krishna legend, led to further innovations in the dance form. With the advent of the Muslim rule, it was brought out of the temples and in to the courts of the rulers. Since then it has been commonly identified with the court traditions of the later Nawabs of northern India.

It is really an amalgam of several folk traditions, the traditional dance drama forms prevalent in the temples of Mathura and Vrindavan known as Krishna and Radha lila. Jaipur, Benaras and Lucknow became the main centers of the dance. 


It is one of the most refined and most scientific dance forms of Kerala. It is not more than 300 years old in its present form. This art demands complete control over practically every fibre of the body. Kathakali draws heavily from drama and is danced with elaborate masks and costumes. The stories for attakathas, the verse text for Kathakali piece are selected from epics and mythologies and are written in a highly Sanskritised verse form in Malayalam.

The actor expresses himself through highly complicated mudras, closely following the text being sung. The splendour of the costumes, ornament and especially the facial make-up are absolutely striking. Kathakali has its origins in the courts of the kings of Kerala. It is a highly classical dance form.


Kuchelapuram in Andhra Pradesh is the birthplace of this dance. Except that the emphasis is on the animation, the grammar is derived from the Natya Shastra. Each principal character in Kuchipudi dance introduces himself or herself on the stage with a brief composition of dance and song, specially designed for the character to help reveal his or her identity and show the performers skill in the art. The music in Kuchipudi is classical Karnatic. The mridanga, violin and a clarinet are the common instruments employed as accompaniment.


Manipuri, is the dance form of Manipur and is inextricably woven into the life of the people of the state. The dance form is mostly ritualistic, and has still preserved the dance drama technique, which draws heavily from the rich lore of the legend and mythology. The costumes used in this dance are colorful and bright, and the music is slow and rhythmic. A large variety of intricate rhythmic patterns are played on the drums and cymbals.


This dance form too belongs to the Devadasi dance heritage, like Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Odissi. The word ‘mohini’ literally means the maiden who steals the hearts of men. It is similar to Bharatanatyam, and its movements are graceful like Odissi and the costumes are attractive and sober. It is essentially a solo dance. The dance is very popular in Kerala.


This is also based on the Natya Sashtra and it can be traced back to 2nd Century BC., when the Jain king Shastra ruled.  The repertoire comprises numbers, which are built on pure dance design recalling sculptural poses of Temples of Orissa. The dances are performed to poetry ranging from invocations to Ganesha to the verses of the Gita Govinda. Oriya poetry is equally popular. The dancer has scope to improve within the beats and the melodic line framework in the dance patterns and the freedom to interpret the poetic line in a variety of ways to evoke a single mood.

Yaksha Gana

This belongs to Karnataka and has a rural origin. It is an blend of dance and drama. Its heart lies in ‘Gana’ meaning music. It is about 400 years old. The language is Kannada and the themes are based on Hindu epics. The costumes are almost akin to the Kathakali dance costumes and the style too seems to have drawn inspiration from it. As prescribed in the Natya Shastra, it has the Sutra Dhara (conductor) and the Vidhushaka (the jester).

So now you know the different dance forms. You can select anyone of them, which you like, and start learning. Happy dancing !!!

LIst of classes in Mumbai (classical and western)

  • Nityalaya Academy Of Dance
    1, Asoraes Road, Opp. Diamond Garden, Chembur – 71
    Telephone: 5220473

  • Sadhana Nritya Sangeet Vidyalaya
    C 201 Vardhman Nagar, Dr. R.P. Road
    Mulund (W) Mumbai – 400 080
    Telephone: 5604731

  • Nriti: Richu Patel
    Shalimar Bldg., Kemps Corner, 2nd Floor, Mumbai- 400 026
    Telephone: 202 2957
    Email: [email protected]

  • Nritya Jyoti School
    Kapadia Chambers, 4th Floor, Behind Metro, Mumbai – 400 020
    Telephone:  203 3026

  • Shiamak Davar Institute of Performing Arts
    Alexander Girls Institute, D.N. Rd., Mumbai – 400 001
    Telephone:  492 1659 / 495 0618
    Email: [email protected]

  • Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan
    F M Munshi Marg, Chowpaty, Mumbai – 400 007
    Telephone: 363 0265 / 363 4464

  • Guru Kalyansundarm the New Era School
    17, Nyaymurti Patkar Marg, Peddar Rd, Mumbai  400 007
    Telephone: 380 6623

  • Jyoti Classes
    322, Shantiniketan, Dr. B.A.Rd, Matunga, Mumbai
    Telephone:  414 1645
    Email: [email protected]

  • Mamta Art Academy
    Mangal Murti Apts., C Block Rd., Shahad(E), Kalyan
    Telephone:  911 549180

  • Nitralaya Academy of Dance
    1, Asoarses Rd., Opp. Diamond Garden, Chembur-71
    Telephone:  522 0473 / 522 4509

  • Sadhna Nritya Sangeet Vidyalay
    C 201, Varthamn nagar, Dr. R P Rd., Mulund (W), Mumbai – 400 080
    Telephone: 560 4731

  • Dance your Soul
    Pali Hill, Bandra, Mumbai
    Telephone:  616 3437 / 38 / 39

  • Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya
    Plot A7/ 1, N.S. Rd., No 10, JVPD Scheme, Vile Parle (W),
    Mumbai  400 049
    Telephone:  620 6326

  • Nandini Krishna
    Lalit Bunglow, Kala nagar, Bandra (E), Mumbai -400 051
    Telephone:  642 3725 / Fax 651 3896
    Email: [email protected]

  • Nritya Umang
    A 104, Meenakshi Apt., Filmcity Rd., Gokul Dham,Goregaon (E),
    Mumbai 400 063
    Telephone:  840 7614 / 842 1036

  • Sane Guruji Arogya Mandir
    Santacruz, Mumbai
    Telephone:   612 8463 / 618 4927

  • Sangeet Abhinay Academy
    A 901, Mahakali Caves Rd., Mumbai  400 093
    Telephone: 822 1709 / 8380525 / FAX NO.822 1709
    Email: [email protected]

  • Saptak Sangeet Academy
    409, Usha, Jankalyan Nagar, Malad (W)
    Telephone:  805 4486
    Email: [email protected]

  • Sharda Sangeet Vidyalay
    Madhusadan, Kalanagar, Bandra, Mumbai  400 051
    Telephone:   642 2433 /643 9439

  • Shrutilaya Institute of Fine Arts
    23A / 11, Takshila, Mahakali Caves , Andheri
    Telephone:   832 8307 / 801 7165 / 875 1403
    Email: [email protected]

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