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Indian Dances are divided into several categories depending on their origin, place of performance, participants, style, musical accompaniments, meaning of movements and costumes, regional characteristics, and ways of preserving them in the context of contemporary culture. Most often they are presented as classical dances, folk and tribal dances, and Bollywood and other popular dances (Bollywood is the popular name for the Mumbai-based Hindi-language film industry).The Surati Dance Group performs most of the classical dance forms and many folk dances from various states of India.
Many researchers of Indian classical dances trace their common roots to Natyasastra, ascribed to Sage Bharata Muni, who is believed to have lived between the 1st and 2nd century AD. The Indian dance forms are based on the instructions in the Natyasastra. The text also contains deliberations on the different kind of postures, the mudras (hand movements and their meanings), and the kind of emotions and their categorization, not to mention the kind of attire, the stage, the ornaments and even the audience. All dance forms are thus structured around the nine rasas or emotions: hasya (happiness), krodha (anger), bhibasta (disgust), bhaya (fear), shoka (sorrow), viram (courage), karuna (compassion), adbhuta (wonder) and shanta (serenity).The dances differ where the local community has adapted it to local demands and needs.
Indian classical dance represents three basic elements: nritta — the rhythmic element, nritya — the combination of rhythm with expression (eyes, hands and facial movements), and natya — the dramatic element. Nritya combined with nritta makes up the usual dance programs.To appreciate the third one — natya, or dance drama, one needs to understand and appreciate Indian mythology, epics and legends, which provide most of the dance themes and form the dance stories. Hindu gods and goddesses like Vishnu and Lakshmi, Rama and Sita, Krishna and Radha are often depicted in classical Indian dances.
There are seven major Indian classical dance forms, each of which may be traced to different regions of India. The most popular classical styles seen on the Indian stage are: Bharatanatyam of Tamil Nadu, Odissi of Orissa, Kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh, Kathak of Uttar Pradesh, Manipuri of Manipur, and Mohiniattam and Kathakali of Kerala.
The Surati Dance Group, founded and directed by Rimli Roy, presents the Bharatanatyam, Oddisi and Manipuri styles in beautifully choreographed stage performances, where “old” and “new” intertwine in a way that give their audiences not only rich experience, but also inspiration and education about the wealth and vitality of the Indian classical dance both in India and in the multicultural context of the U.S.A.
Bharatanatyam originated in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu as a temple dance performed by Devadasis (Servants of God). Performances were a part of daily rituals and religious or festive occasions, where dance was considered to be an offering to the deities. Eventually, this dance form made its way into the royal courts, and in the 18th and 19th century Thanjavur courts, Bharathanatyam developed into its present form. A period of decline in popularity was followed by a revival of Bharathanatyam in the 1920s and 1930s, after which it found its place on the modern stage. The name Bharatha Natyam was introduced in the 1930s.
Odissi originated in the North-East Indian State of Orissa. It was also a temple dance. This dance form, lyrically graceful in style, was also traditionally performed as a devadasi (temple dance) tradition. Dances were dedicated to Lord Krishna (known as Lord Jagannath in Orissa). With the suppression of Odissi dance by British authorities, this dance style was virtually exterminated. The revival of Odissi began in 1949 with India's independence. The dance form was recreated through research of the temples in Orissa, where knowledge about the dance was found in temple sculptures and carvings.
Manipuri originated in the North-Eastern state of Manipur. Still performed in temples and on religious occasions, and inextricably woven into the lives of the people of Manipur, this dance form is very much a living tradition. According to legend, Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati danced in the valleys of Manipuri to the accompaniment of the Ghandharvas and to the celestial light of Mani (jewel) from the head of the serpent Atishesha. That is how it has come to be called Manipuri. The costumes used in this form of dance are ornamental and rich in colors. The dance is often accompanied by cymbals (kartal or manjira) and double-headed drum (pung or Manipuri mridongo). Surati's presentation of folk dances portrays various regional traditions such as: Garba (Gujarat), Bhangra (Punjab), Lavani (Maharashtra), and Tea garden Dance (Assam).
There are several dance programs produced by Surati group. One of their most recent performances was at the Festival of India! A Multitude of Cultural Expressions, which was a program of the Down Jersey Folklife Center at Wheaton Arts. The performance contributed tremendously to this great celebration of the rich Indian and Indian American traditions and cultural expressions in New Jersey.
Iveta Pirgova , Director
The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to "preserve and present American Folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs, and training. The Center includes the American Folklife Center Archive of folk culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world. Please visit our web site.
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