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Kathak is a dance form that traces its origins to the nomadic bards of ancient northern India, known as Kathakars or storytellers.
Its form today contains traces of temple and ritual dances, and the influence of the bhakti movement.
The name kathak is derived from the Sanskrit word katha meaning "story", and katthaka in Sanskrit means "he who tells a story", or "to do with stories".
The structure of a conventional kathak performance tends to follow a progression in tempo from slow to fast, ending with a dramatic climax. A short dance composition is known as a tukra, a longer one as a toda.
There are also compositions consisting solely of footwork. Often the performer will engage in rhythmic play with the time-cycle, for example splitting it into triplets or quintuplets which will be marked out on the footwork, so that it is in counterpoint to the rhythm on the percussion.
Kathak also possesses a particular performance style of expressional pieces called bhaav bataanaa (lit. 'to show bhaav or 'feeling').
Odissi originates from the state of Odisha, in eastern India. It is the oldest surviving dance form of India on the basis of archaeological evidences.
It is particularly distinguished from other classical Indian dance forms by the importance it places upon the Tribhangi (literally: three parts break), the independent movement of head, chest and pelvis and upon the basic square stance known as Chauka or Chouka that symbolises Lord Jagannath.
This dance is characterised by various Bhangas (Stance), which involves stamping of the foot and striking various postures as seen in Indian sculptures. The common Bhangas are Bhanga, Abanga, Atibhanga and Tribhanga.
The first clear picture of Odissi dance is found in the Manchapuri cave in Udayagiri which was carved during the time of emperor Kharavela in the first or second century BCE.
Flanked by two queens, emperor Kharavela was watching a dance recital where a damsel was performing a dance in front of the court along with the company of female instrumentalists.
Thus, Odissi can be traced back to its origin as secular dance. Later it was attached to the temple culture of Odisha.
Manipuri dance originates from Manipur, a state in north-eastern India on the border with Burma.
In Manipur, surrounded by mountains and geographically isolated at the meeting point of the orient and mainland India, the form developed its own specific aesthetics, values, conventions and ethics.
The cult of Radha and Krishna, particularly the raslila, is central to its themes but the dances, unusually, incorporate the characteristic cymbals (kartal or manjira) and double-headed drum (pung or Manipuri mrdanga) of sankirtan into the visual performance.
The traditional Manipuri dance style embodies delicate, lyrical and graceful movements.
The aim is to make rounded movements and avoid any jerks, sharp edges or straight lines.
It is this which gives Manipuri dance its undulating and soft appearance. Manipuri dance is purely religious and its aim is a spiritual experience. From the religious point of view and from the artistic angle of vision, Manipuri classical form of dance is claimed not only to be one of the most chastest, modest, softest and mildest but the most meaningful dances of the world.
Bharatnatyam is a form of Indian classical dance that originated in the temples of Tamil Nadu.
It was described in the treatise Natya Shastra by Bharata around the beginning of the common era.
Bharatnatyam is known for its grace, elegance, purity, tenderness, expression and sculpturesque poses. Lord Shiva in his Nataraja form is considered the God of this dance.
Today, it is one of the most popular and widely performed dance styles and is practiced by male and female dancers all over the world, although it is more commonly danced by women.
Bharatnatyam is considered to be a fire-dance — the mystic manifestation of the metaphysical element of fire in the human body. It is the manifestation of the ancient idea of the celebration of the eternal universe through the celebration of the beauty of the material body.
Kuchipudi is an Indian classical dance originating in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh, India, but popular all over South India.
The performance usually begins with stage rites. Then, each of the characters comes on the stage and introduces themselves with a dharavu (a small composition of both song and dance.) The dharavu introduces the identity of the character and sets the mood. The drama then begins. The dance is accompanied by song, typically Carnatic music. The singer is accompanied by mridangam, violin, flute and the tambura.
Mohiniyattam is a classical dance form from Kerala, India. It is considered a very graceful form of dance meant to be performed as solo recitals by women.
The term Mohiniyattam comes from the words "Mohini" meaning a woman who enchants onlookers and "aattam" meaning graceful and sensuous body movements.
The word "Mohiniyattam" literally means "dance of the enchantress".
The name Mohiniyattam may have been coined after Lord Vishnu; the main theme of the dance is love and devotion to God, with usually Vishnu or Krishna being the hero.
Devadasis used to perform this in temples. Mohiniyattam is a drama in dance and verse.