Indian dance has a very rich tradition. The tradition of Indian classical and folk dance has been thoroughly discussed in Natya Shastra, the oldest surviving text of the world on stagecraft. In the earlier days of the theatre, dancers mimed the story and the singers sang the dialogue with the instrumentalists accompanying them. Though the singers and the instrumentalists played significant roles, it was the dancers who occupied a central position. Traditionally, most of these dancers were attached to the Indian temples. Even today, a number of the themes of Indian classical dance are mythological in nature.
Being a vast country, the different areas of India have given their own color to this ancient classical tradition. Some of the acknowledged classical styles include Kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh, Bharatnatyam of Tamil Nadu, Odissi from Orissa, Kathakali of Kerala, Kathak from Pakistan and north India, and Manipuri of Northeast India. There are some other styles like Mohiniaattam from Kerala and Sattriya from Assam. All these classical dancing styles have a strong regional connection. However, none of them can be called the representative of the entire subcontinent.
Kuchipudi: This Indian dance form is from the state of Andhra Pradesh. It has derived its name from a small village of Krishna district, where the resident Brahmins practice this traditional dance form. The movements of this form are rounded, scintillating and quicksilver, and fleet-footed. It is performed with classical Carnatic music. The specialty of Kuchipudi is Tarangam, where the dancers perform upon a brass plate, placing their feet upon its raised edges.
Bharatnatyam: This dance form is accompanied by classical Tamil music and is inspired by the ancient sculptures of the temple of Chidambaram. The techniques of this Indian dance include abhinaya or natya, which is the dramatic art of story-telling; nritta, the pure dance movements; and nritya, which is a combination of nritta and abhinaya.
Odissi: This classical dance form existed from the traditions of Nartaki, a dance that took place in royal courts; Mahari, who were Orissan devadasis at the temple of Jagganath, Puri; and Gotipua, where young boys were dressed as girls. This dance consists of Mangalacharan, Battu Nrutya, Moksha, Pallavi, Abhinaya, and Dashavataar.
Kathakali: It originated from a style of dance-drama called Ramanattam. This dance also follows some of the techniques of Krishnanattam. Kathakali derived its name from two Malayalam words meaning story and performance.
Kathak: This dance form originated from northern India and traces its history to the nomadic bards called kathakas. It has derived its name from the Sanskrit word katha that means “story”. The styles and techniques of this dance vary depending upon the major gharanas or schools.