India - Introduction to Folk Dance of India

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)

Introduction to Folk Dance Forms of India

Dance, being a part of man’s life from the primitive to the most cultured community, appears to have evolved even before he began to speak or paint. While the primitive man performed the dance combining the reality with the deity, the cultured man performed the dance for pleasure and for the expression of art.
India, the land of great cultural heritage with its vast variety of races and conditions has been a veritable treasure house of dance forms for untold centuries. It has given birth to varied forms of dancing, each shaped by the influences of a particular period and environment. Most of the prevailing systems of Indian classical dances which are governed by elaborate techniques and shown high degree of refinement have had their origin in the dances of the common people, which still survive in as virile state as ever in tribal hamlets and peasant huts.

The Indian folk dance is a creative work with the artistic steps and postures being accompanied by the rhythmical movements of vocal or instrumental music. The Indian folk dance has an age old tradition and is simple without being naïve. In folk tradition, dance is nourishment to the daily life of the people. Every folk dance portrays some expression of life and meaning. Its profundity of conception and a directness of expression are of great artistic value.

The concept of portraying emotion in a folk dance is natural and original. More than the grace of the individual dancer or the virtuosity of the isolated prose, the total effect of the overwhelming buoyancy of spirit, and the eloquent, effortless ease with which it is expressed are important. Being less complex in technique, it is governed by a broad set of rules which vary from dance to dance and from region to region.

The Indian folk dance is mainly performed to express joy. It has its own roots, moorings, nourishment, growth, flowering and maturity. It has yielded generation after generation of performers. People used to learn dances from parents or grandparents whose lives have been still greatly influenced by customs and traditions and who mastered dancing folk dances directly from their parents in outdoor country parties. Much of what represents the Indian folk, tribal and ritual dance tradition has an intimate relationship with the functions of daily life.

It has the capacity of renewing and rejuvenating forever while maintaining continuity with antiquity and tradition. It forms the integral part of many tribal communities marking the celebration of every possible occasion. It might be to celebrate the arrival of seasons, or the birth of a child, or the wedding of a couple or the harvest period, or the rites, or even the festivals.

The diversity in the topography and geography of the country has given room for multiple forms of folk dances. The tribal belt, which runs through all parts of India, is responsible for creating the tribal dances of India.

The peasant community of village India is responsible for creating the folk dances, ritualistic, agricultural and seasonal. The third special group, who form the part of the village community, but also close to the townships, served as craftsmen, entertainers, musicians and dancers has been the chief repository of the oral tradition. Thus folk dance comprises the common people, both inhabiting in the urban and the rural areas, and it is a common man's art.

Being simple in steps or movement, the folk dances burst with verve and vitality. Some of these dances are exclusively performed either by men or women, but some other dances require both men and women to participate together in performances. In most of the cases, the dancers sing while dancing, but they are accompanied by artists on the instruments. Each form of dance has a specific costume. Most costumes are flamboyant with extensive jewels.

Every movement and step has its purpose. It is even the slightest change of mood that can expressed by movement of the dance. Dance originality is being formed by the methods of expressions under the influence of geographic surroundings, clothing, relationships, and racial characteristics. While there are numerous folk and tribal dances, they are also constantly being improved. The skill and the imagination of the dances influence the performance.

The Indian folk dance is a great treasure of symbolic language contributing as a gift to Modern art. It carries the connotation of anonymity, collective wisdom, spontaneity and simplicity from generation to generation.


For More Articles, visit Back to INDIA INFO Home