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Dance Todays class is about understanding and appreciating dance, with a little focus on Indian classical dance.

Before we go any further, lets make sure we are all on the same page. What is dance? If youll look around you, in your nature, your surroundings, everything around you has its own music. Rustling leaves, flowing water. It has its own rhythm. When we hear rhythm or music, our bodies start moving to it. We start tapping our feet, clapping our hands. Movement of our body to rhythm is dance. Of course that is a very technical definition. A more popular and relatable definition is that dance is an expression of joy. When we are happy and we know it, we dance. A lot many folk arts trace their origin to this definition. But classical dances take this concept to another level. Classical dances are not just an expression of joy, but can be used to express a variety of emotions, concepts, ideas; tangible, intangible etc. Classical dances grow to be a non verbal form of communication. Every aspect that you see, that comes under the broad category of dance, is used to put forth the idea before the audience. And it is the audiences responsibility per se to understand and appreciate and analyze it. Why a class on dance? Well, dance make you see and think about life and the world in new ways. The cultural experience, more so the creative experience can change perspectives diametrically. As an audience member, you may feel like you don't understand what you're watching. You're not alone. In Paris in 1913, crowds rioted in the streets after the premiere of Vaslav Nijinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring. Their reaction demonstrates the anger and frustration they felt because they didn't understand the dance set before them. And why classical dance? Classical dances tend to be more structured with rules and norms, which make it easier actually for the layman to understand certain concepts, and then seek them in the variety you will witness later. Of course dance did not spring up one fine day with its own rule book and dos and donts for wanna be critics. One can trace the progress over the ages, wherein often lies the spirit of the dance form, which you have to connect to. I say have but I mean can. Starting from crude movements and simple beats, to more complex patterns; a variation in themes, costumes, musical instruments; from folk dances to classical with rigid structures and rules, differences that occurred as society evolved. History of dance is practically a history of mankind! To avoid frustration and embarrassment because they don't "get it", many people close themselves off to dance completely. However, then they miss out on the way dance can be enjoyable, exciting, thought provoking, creative and enriching. You may have heard comments like "I don't understand it" or "it just doesn't mean anything to me". For the uninitiated, it can be hard to make distinctions between forms, styles or choreographers, and dance of all kinds can seem the same. Worse, you may know only the few types that happen to be current fads and close yourself up to the vastness of beauty that is available.

The key is not to pressure your self. The truth is, you really can relax. There is no right or wrong interpretation. Whether or not a dance performance suits your particular tastes, if you are open to the experience, you will get something out of it. A brief history before we go into the details. Dance in India is an age old tradition. India is a country rich with a variety of art forms, folk and classical. Dances can be traced back to every part of the country. We have dances for every occasion, every custom, ritual. Understanding Indian dance or Indian classical dance is not an easy task. But that doesnt mean it is difficult. It is definitely easier if you from the same cultural background, because then less is lost in translation. But to appreciate or understand anything, it is essential that we understand the basics that govern it. Like I have said before, dance in India is a very ancient art form. Archeological evidence dating back to the 2nd and 5th centuries has been found, the statue of the dancing girl from Mohenjodaro is famous. The Sangeet Natak Akademi recognizes 8 dance forms to be classical dance forms of India: Bharatanatyam from Tamil Nadu, Kuchipudi from Andhra Pradesh, Mohiniattam and Kathakali from Kerala, Odissi from Orissa, Manipuri from Manipur, Sattriya from Assam, and Kathak from north India. THINGS TO NOTICE: The movement and emotions expressed by the dancers The combination of patterns, shapes and dynamics on stage The relationship between the movement and the music The colours, textures and design elements used to enhance the movement Maybe you'll be drawn to a particular performer's movement, impressed by the way he or she jumps, turns or travels through the space. You might notice the relationships between the performers, or the various qualities of their movements and gestures. There may be a narrative in the program to guide you, or you might discover your own story as you watch. Then again, the structure might be more abstract. You might find yourself listening to the music. Perhaps the lighting or the costumes will capture your attention. Nritta shapes, movement, technique, rhythm Nritya expression, music Natya - design Nritta is pure dance. Abstract dance. Dance devoid(lacking) of any Abhinaya. That should not stop the audience from searching for various interpretations in pure Nritta pieces, but traditionally they are only for aesthetic(artistic) pleasure. As the aesthetics are the main criteria here, symmetry is very important. Symmetry is concept found in nature, with every element existing to balance another. As a result Indian dances are also very symmetrical. The aramandi posture of Bharatanatyam is a perfect example. Also to maintain the concept of symmetry, you will often dancers doing an action on side, or

starting with say the right side, and then repeating the action with the left, to balance it out. Another important concept of Nritta is Tala and Laya, which is the concept of rhythm. Tala is time measure and Laya refers to speed. We measure time in rhythmic cycles. Show example with chaturshra. Show example with adavus, stage covering adavus. The point we have to remember is, in Nritta, the emphasis is on pure dance movements, creating patterns in space and time. Nritya is Abhinaya. Abhinaya comes from the Sanskrit word meaning to educate or convey. There are four types of Abhinaya angika, vachika, aharya and satvika. Under angika Abhinaya, we study how each part of the body is used to communicate. Gestures or mudras, the sign language of dance comes under this category. Natyashastra tells us of single hand gestures and double hand gestures- asamyukta and samyukta hastas. The meaning of some can be easily understood having almost universal icons the deer and the fish, the moon. Some have a more cultural significance. The gestures for wedding refer to the drums being beaten, and the mangalsutra being worn. Some are more arbitrary. Even in the samyukta hastas the anjali is easily understood. Not all dances use a lot of these gestures, sometimes there are minute differences, but on the whole they work as the backbone to communicate concepts. Under vachika Abhinaya, we study the language, the music, the lyrics, and the song. Languages differ with which part of India the dance comes from. Accordingly, the music system it will follow varies the carnatic music system of south India or the Hindustani music system of north India. Lyrics vary from being mere story telling, or from extolling the virtues of kings and gods, to an expression of sublime devotion, or love. Again, depending on which place the dance originated in, the deities it will praise vary. Radha Krishna play a prominent role in say Kathak and Odissi, lord Shiva and Vishnu in south Indian dances etc. song and lyrics often make it easier for an idea to be expressed, however an idea can be well expressed only making use of music to set the mood. Under aharya Abhinaya, we study the costumes, the makeup, the jewelry etc. like I had said before; in Kathakali the colors and types of masks differ from character to character. Even in Bharatanatyam, the costume has certain significance. The jewelry worn is the traditional wedding jewelry as the Devadasis were the brides of the lord. The jewels on the head the Chandra and surya have a philosophical significance. Based on the concept of lord Shiva and his three eyes, the Chandra surya refer to his right and left ones, with the bindi being the third eye. And finally, under satvika Abhinaya, we study the art of expression. We have two broad categories Rasa and bhava. Simply put, bhava is the imitation(copy) of an emotion done by the dancer, and Rasa is what the audience experiences. Bhava what I enact, and Rasa

what you experience. We have Nava rasas shringara, hasya, veera, raudra, bhayanak, vibhatsya, adbhuta, karuna and shanta. Natya dramatic element, it is a combination of both Nritta and Nritya. It is the dramatisation of a theme. The themes that are generally used are mythological stories, which sing praises of the deeds of the various Hindu Gods. The themes also consist of the innumerable stories of the kings of different eras in whose praise many a great poets have penned beautiful songs. Natya is thus the visual painting that the dancer draws to get the story across to the audience. So these were the basic concepts of Nritta, Nritya and Natya. What we see on stage is the combination of all three.