ODISSI

Odissi traces its origins to the ritual dances performed in the temples of ancient northern India. Today the name Odissi refers to the dance style of the state of Orissa in eastern India. Like other classical arts of India, this ancient dance style had suffered a decline as temples and artists lost the patronage of feudal rulers and princely states, and by the 1930s and 40s, there were very few surviving practitioners of the art.
The current form of Odissi is the product of a 20th century revival. Dedicated scholars and dance enthusiasts carefully researched manuscripts and studied the sculpture, painting and poetry of the region. They also met and observed the performances of the few existing performers, in order to revive and restructure Odissi as a unique classical dance style adapted to the requirements of formal stage presentation. Over the years Odissi has become one of the most popular classical dance styles.
Like other Indian classical dance forms, Odissi has two major facets: Nritta or non-representational dance, in which ornamental patterns are created using body movements in space and time; and Abhinaya, or stylized mime in which symbolic hand gestures and facial expressions are used to interpret a story or theme.
The divine love tales of Radha and the cowherd God Krishna are favourite themes for interpretation, and a typical recital of Odissi will contain at least one or two ashtapadis (poem of eight couplets) from Jayadeva's Gita Govindam, which describes in exquisite Sanskrit poetry the complex relationship between Radha and her Lord.
The technique of Odissi includes repeated use of the tribhangi, or thrice deflected posture, in which the body is bent in three places, approximating the shape of a helix. This posture and the characteristic shifting of the torso from side to side, make Odissi a difficult style to execute. When mastered, it is the epitome of fluid grace and has a distinctively lyrical quality that is very appealing.
 

                    KUCHIPUDI

Sculptural evidence from all parts of India and the surrounding region points to a rich tradition of dance and music that flourished over a thousand years ago. All over ancient India, it would seem, dance and music were seen not merely as ways to celebrate but also as offerings of worship and thanksgiving to the Divine. Over the course of time, the dance forms practiced in the different parts of the country were codified and developed distinct identities according to the geographic, socio-economic, and political conditions of each region.
The dance form Kuchipudi developed in what is now known as the state of Andhra Pradesh in southern India. Kuchipudi derives its name from the village Kuchelapuram, where it was nurtured by great scholars and artists who built up the repertoire and refined the dance technique.
The technique of Kuchipudi makes use of fast rhythmic footwork and sculpturesque body movements. Stylized mime, using hand gestures and subtle facial expression, is combined with more realistic acting, occasionally including dialogues spoken by the dancers. In this blend of performance techniques, Kuchipudi is unique among the Indian classical dance styles. Kuchipudi today is performed either as a solo or a group presentation, but historically it was performed as a dance drama, with several dancers taking different roles. The themes are mostly derived form the scriptures and mythology, and the portrayal of certain characters is a central motif of this dance form. One example is Satyabhama, the colourful second consort of Lord Krishna. Another unique feature of Kuchipudi is the Tarangam, in which the performer dances on the edges of a brass plate, executing complicated rhythmic patterns with dexterity, while sometimes also balancing a pot of water on the head.
Kuchipudi is accompanied by Carnatic music. A typical orchestra for a Kuchipudi recital includes the mridangam, flute and violin. A vocalist sings the lyrics, and the nattuvanar conducts the orchestra and recites the rhythmic patterns.

                    MANIPURI

Manipuri is one of the most beautiful dance styles of India. Nurtured in the mountainous region of the northeast, it takes its name from the name of the area, Manipur, which is now a state. Manipur literally means a jewel of a land, and the state is set like a gem in the verdant hills. The legend goes that the gods drained a lake in the beautiful countryside in order to find a place to dance. No wonder then, that dance is an inherent part of the rituals of daily life, such as weddings and homage to ancestors.
The Lai Haroba, a ritualistic dance depicting the Creation, is considered the precursor of Manipuri as seen today. The Lai Haroba is still an important living tradition, while Manipuri has expanded and gained popularity as a performing art in group and solo presentations.
Among the important constituents of the Manipuri repertoire are the Sankirtana and the Raas Leela, based on the devotional theme of Krishna and Radha. The Raas Leela depicts the cosmic dance of Krishna and the cowherd maidens. The beautiful embroidered skirts of the dancers, long and flared from the waist, and the transluscent veils, along with Krishna's costume with the tall peacock feather crown, add to the radiant appearance of this dance, as the performers sway and twirl to an ascending tempo.
Another vibrant feature of Manipuri is the Pung Cholam or Drum dance, in which dancers play on the drum known as Pung while dancing with thrilling leaps and turns to a fast rhythm.
MOHINI ATTAM
The dance form of Mohiniattam was nurtured in the region of Kerala in southwestern India. The name Mohiniattam literally means 'Dance of the Enchantress,' and it does have a mesmerizing quality. The white and gold costume, arresting hairstyle and the highly graceful movements in medium tempo, contribute to this aesthetic effect.
Mohiniattam is characterized by swaying movements of the upper body with legs placed in a stance similar to the plie position. The eyes play an important role in accenting the direction of the movement.
Mention of Mohiniattam is found in some eighteenth century texts, but the practical aspect of the style was revived in the reign of Maharaja Swati Tirunal, a 19th century ruler who was a great patron of the arts. Under Swati Tirunal, Mohiniattam crystallized as a solo dance tradition with musical compositions set to the Carnatic style of music and a distinct repertoire. Later, in the twentieth century, the great poet Vallathol established the Kerala Kalamandalam to promote the arts of Mohiniattam and Kathakali. Here, further research was done and Mohiniattam was codified and revived.
Over the past few decades, the repertoire of Mohiniattam has been developed and expanded by dedicated performers who have ensured that this beautiful dance style retains a distinct identity among the classical dance styles of India. Apart from mythology, Mohiniattam contains a range of themes from nature.
 

                    MODERN

Modern Dance in India has a relatively short history. Since the perception of 'modern' or 'contemporary' can vary from dancer to dancer, this dance form cannot be defined as easily as the classical dance styles of India. It is also not codified in a detailed manner, as are the classical styles.
Uday Shankar, who was born in the early years of the 20th century, is widely accepted as the Father of Modern Dance in India. This great dancer had a very wide vision, and he appreciated the wonderful variety and scope of expression afforded by the different classical and folk dances existing in this country.
His search for a personal expression led him to learn several dance styles, such as Bharata Natyam, Kathakali, and Kathak, in order to groom his body to a state in which it would be ready to produce a varied, rich and contemporary dance vocabulary. Uday Shankar was an idealist as well as a wonderful showman. He was a catalyst in the renaissance of interest in Indian arts during the 1930s and '40s, and he introduced audiences in the West to Indian dance and music through the performances of his troupe.
He established an idyllic institution in the hills, where he invited teachers from different genres to train his troupe. Some of Uday Shankar's famous works include the innovative ballet, 'Labour and Machinery' and a path breaking film, 'Kalpana,' on the theme of dance.
The institute established by Uday Shankar is now defunct, but his legacy survives in the work of his children and his many disciples, who have their own troupes and students. Today, in addition to the line established by Uday Shankar, there are other practitioners of Modern Dance in India who belong to other schools.