Classical Dance Classes

Dance is the peak state of happiness. The accustomed nature of man has led to the birth of dance as there is an innate need to express our joys and sorrows.

India has a rich tradition of folk dances. Folk dances have no fixed dance movements.

Our sages closely studied all the movements of the body from head to toe. This in-depth study helped them understand which emotions invoke by which body part. They also created scriptures and expressions of the entire body through various gestures, describing their method of use.

When dance helped express different kinds of emotions, as a rule, rigorous practice and hard work followed. Classical dance, which is bound by the methods of this scripture, was earlier known as Margi dance.

In ancient times, the dances known as Margi and Desi are today called classical and folk dances.

In India, we have eight classical dance forms.     


Bharatanatyam is an ancient traditional classical dance style of India. The word Bharata in Bharatanatyam is an amalgamation of Bhaavam (expression), Ragam (melody), and Taalam (music).

This dance was formerly known as Dasiattam. Dasi is the dance performed by the Devadasis. There were three sub-forms of Dasiattam:

1) Devadasis (who performed in front of the Gods)

2)Swadasis (who danced for herself)

3)Rajdasis (who danced in courts)

Bharatanatyam is taught by a Nattuvan (teacher). It is primarily a solo dance form. There are various schools of Bharatanatyam: Pandalamur, Tanjore, Mysore, Vallamur, and Kalakshetra.

There are six main pieces performed in Bharatanatyam -

Alarippu, Jathiswaram, Shabdam, Varnam, Padam, and Tillana.

The costumes and jewellery are bright and sophisticated.

Bharatanatyam uses Carnatic music. The main instruments in this dance consist of the Mridang and Manjira. In addition to the two, the Veena and Nadaswaram, Violin, Clarinet and Flute are played.


Initially, the residents of Manipur danced to please their Gods and Goddesses. Lai-Haroba, which is the oldest dance form, was first performed by Shiva and Parvati. It is now performed once a year during April-May on the occasion of planting new crops.

Manipur's most popular dance form is Ras Leela. There is also Abhinaya (Samvad Abhinaya), but the dance is predominant. This program of Rasleela is based Krishna-Radha and Gopis. Only a child of 10 to 12 years can perform Krishna, but Radha and her friends are performed only by proficient dancers. There are four main types of Rasleela - Vasantras, Kunjras, Maharas, and Nityaras.

 In this dance - Radha and Gopi wear a red and green lehenga. The lehenga rotates in the same direction by placing a cane or carton sticks underneath. Above the lehenga is a small Ghaghra that covers it at half a distance. The blouse also shines with bright colours and zari work. A thin dupatta hangs over all of this, which also covers the dancers lower face. Her expressions are visible as the dupatta is somewhat transparent.  


Odissi is also one of the oldest classical dance forms of India. Odissi originated from the temple of Jagannathpuri in Odisha. Later, it developed under the influence of the Devadasis of the Jagannath Temple. The Devadasis were known as Mahari. The male dancers were called Gotipuva.

Odissi is predominantly a solo dance form.

The dancers and students methodically follow the rules of Natyashastra and Shilpshastra.

The recital commences with a Mangalacharan where the dancer performs a Bhoomi Pranam and Vighnaraja Puja. In Bhoomi Pranam, movements are performed only with the mridang. In Vighnaraja-puja, the performer adds multiple verses.

After Mangalacharan, the dancer performs Battu-nritya. The original form of Odissi blossoms in this. Like the parans of Kathak dance and Tirmaan of Bharatanatyam, the dancer in Battunritya exudes rhythm in a taal.

Ishtdev Vandana is next in sequence, after Battunritya. This Vandana dance borrows its literature from Sanskrit or Oriya poetry. After Vandana, the dancer presents Swarpallavi. Swarpallavi highlights the Nritta aspect in Odissi. After Swarpallavi comes the sequence of Geetabhinayas. It is synonymous with a Thumri in Kathak and a Padam in Bharatanatyam.

Odissi concludes with 'Tarjan' in which the vocals, rhythms and nritta are performed at high speed, taking the dance to its peak.

The musical instruments used in Odissi dance are limited. There is a singer, a mridang player and a flute player. Sometimes, for the sake of vocal accompaniment, a sarangi is also added.

The silk sari woven from the Oriya cloth is pleated and tied in a way where we see its palla spread forward. A silver belt is worn on the waist. Other ornaments also consist of silver. In place of Juda on the head, a page made of shola adds elegance to the entire get-up of the performer.


Mohiniattam is a soulful classical dance form of Kerala. If Kathakali of Kerala is Tandava predominant, then Mohiniattam showcases the Lasya element.

The traditional Mohiniattam performance begins with Cholketu, an invocation in praise of Shiva, Vishnu or Bhagwati. Here, through taal and rhythm, the dancer creates a joyful environment. After Cholketu, Jatiswaram, Varnam, Padam and Tillana are presented. A pandamat is presented: in which the feeling of playing with the ball in different ways is illustrated. The program concludes with verses that make the performance devotional.

The dancer performs compositions written by Swati Thirunal and Duriyamal Thampi's compositions in Mohiniattam. Instruments used in this dance form are veena, mridang, flute etc.

Mohiniattam dancers have a beautiful Jura on the left side above the ear, decorated with fresh fragrant flowers. A gold teeka is applied on demand. Small nose pins are worn on both sides with a baser in between. Their costume consists of a nine-yard long white saree with gold zari work, with tiny pleats inside the circle. The blouse is also of the golden border. Chandrahar, Kasimala, jewellery are worn around the neck.  


Kuchipudi originated from the state of Andhra Pradesh. Before the 16th century, Narayan Teerth, a practitioner of this dance from 'Tanjore' wrote the Krishna-Leela Tarangini. Kuchipudi's literature is predominant in Jaydevs writings and Ashtanayika.

In this, the dancer presents Usha-Parineya and Prahlad Charitra. Many of its activities are miraculous, such as standing and dancing on the edge plate.

After the Mangalacharan in the Kuchipudi dance, a story-based dance starts. However, the movements are as challenging as the yoga asanas. Eye movements and brow movements add to its beauty.

Vedic chantings of mantras begin after the instrumentals, known as Melkattu. After Vandana, Kattiakkaran and Kobhaali enter the stage and commence the programme with an announcement, which takes place with music playing in the background. First, Nayak enters the stage, followed by other characters. The story begins, and their expressions are a visual delight!

The instruments used in Kuchipudi are Mukhveena, Mridangam, and Manjira. Mukhveena is known as Nadaswaram and the Manjira is known as Jalaar.

Their postures look very artistic. They present intricate footwork with different Jaatis.  


Sattriya belongs to the state of Assam. Sangeet Natak Akademi claimed Sattriya as a classical dance form in 2000. Sant Shri Manta Shankar Dev is the founder of this dance.

This dance form is a result of Ankiya Natya - a 500-year-old art style performed by Devadasis. This makes it a relatively new classical dance form. It contains mythological stories that are performed by men and women alike. It is believed to be born in the middle of the twelve to the fourteenth century. It includes Nritta, Natya and Nritya.

 The sequential order of this performance is as follows:

Vandana / Shloka

Tandava / Lasya

Ang Abhinaya consisting of Shankardeva and Madhavadeva's compositions.

The instruments used in this dance form are Manjeera, Khol, Kartal, etc.

 Their costume consists of a dhoti for males and dhuri chaddar for females. Women wear a kaanchi on their waist, tangmali (long skirt), kopali (head accessory), gamkaru (bracelet), tukasuna (ear accessories), necklace, jhaapi, and anklets. 


Kathakali is a famous dance form of the state of Kerala. Kathakali means to present a story in the form of a dance drama.

Kathakali performances take place in open spaces under a Shamiyana, sometimes without it. This dance has traditionally taken place during late hours where large brass lamps would be lit.

The male dancers perform Thirnattam, whereas Kummi is presented by female artists.

In Kathakali, Aharya Abhinaya (exterior decoration - costume/makeup etc.) is important. Dancers take hours in this face decoration. For an evening performance, preparations have to be made from the day itself.

Different makeup pastes are made for all types of characters. The face of Gods and gentlemen should be green. Dancers dressed as demons apply red paste along with the black paste to add fierceness to it. The female characters are white natural colour only. However, for a character like Surpanakha or Putana, the mouth is made with the same colours as the demons. The faces of bandits are blackened, whereas faces of saints and secondary characters have minimal makeup

 The performance commences with the beating of the drum before the dance recital, known as Kelikottu. On people gathering, the ceremony of worship and music starts behind the curtains. This is known as Thodayam and Vandana shlokam. The Purappadu program starts with Shankh, Nagara and Mridang Ghosh.

In Kathakali, accompaniment instruments include the flute, manjeera, muchalam and Chaindayi. Apart from this, there is a singer who performs the Leela gaan. The Chaindayi is the life of this dance. Every dancer considers it pure and pays respect to it before starting the dance.  


There are three main aspects of Kathak dance, known as Natan bhed. These aspects are - Nritta, Natya, and Nritya.

A dance that is devoid of any emotional expression is known as Nritta. Nritta is primarily based on technique, where compositions such as tode-tukde, paran, tihai, and other pieces are presented.

Natya refers to the expression of emotions. However, Natya is not mimicry or imitation because there are relevant distinctions concerning what is v/s what is not abhinaya.

The amalgamation of Nritta and Natya was the birth of the third art: it is called Nritya. Nritya is a complete art in itself.

The presentation of these three gives the dancer perfection.

Pirouettes are used very beautifully in Kathak. Various forms of pirouettes are found in Kathak with different foot movements that are performed in three speeds (slow, medium, and fast).

Footwork is an integral part of Kathak dance. Tabla and Pakhavaj's syllables are enunciated clearly from the feet: which requires rigorous effort and practice. Along with footwork, special attention is also paid to the aesthetics of bodily movements. Kathak is a solo dance, but group choreographies have grown more popular now.

The sequence of any solo Kathak recital is thaat, uthaan, aamad, paran aamad, tode-tukde, paran, tihai etc. However, the dancers create their order according to the theme of their choreography. Instruments used in this dance form are tabla, pakhawaj, harmonium, sarangi etc. However, some of these instruments are subject to change based on their choreography.

In costume, the male dancer ties a kurta or bagalbandi, a pyjama and a dupatta on their waist. The female Kathak dancer adorns an angrakha/lehenga-blouse with a churidar and dupatta. 

Kathak is the most mesmerizing dance form woven around the concept of storytelling. 

Click here to know more about the different concepts related to charming dance mudras, and footwork such as Kathak Dance Drawing & Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu Guru Devo.


Q. What are the names of all Indian Classical dance forms? Which state do these classical dance forms belong to?
Ans. The names of these Indian classical dance forms along with their states are as follows - Kathak - Northern Belt of India (from Rajasthan to Uttar Pradesh) Sattriya - Assam Manipuri - Manipur Kuchipudi - Andhra Odissi - Odisha Bharatanatyam - Tamil Nadu Kathakali - Kerala Mohiniattam - Kerala
Q. How many types of classical dance forms are there in India?
Ans. India is home to many diverse cultures and traditions. Each of these cultures have some form of dance embedded in them. As of today, we have eight dance forms that come under the category of Indian classical dance.
Q. What are some features of Indian Classical dance?
Ans. Indian classical dance forms are an integral part of the Indian heritage. Some salient features of Indian classical dance are as follows - The base of all Indian classical dance forms are the ancient scriptures and texts - such as the Natyashastra by Bharatamuni, Abhinaya Darpana by Acharya Nandikeshwara, etc. Every Indian classical dance form has Nritta, Nritya, and Natya present. They are known through different names across different dance forms. Every Indian classical dance form serves as a carrier of the culture, tradition, heritage, and history of the state where the dance form originated. Every Indian classical dance form has a set of rules and boundaries that are mentioned in scriptures like Natyashastra and Abhinaya Darpana. The intensity of these rules and boundaries differ from dance form to dance form. Every movement and expression requires great control and command over our body, along with body and mind coordination.

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