Category Dance Forms

What are the lesser known art forms of Theyyam and Puli Kali?

Theyyam is a ritualistic dance form wherein pantheistic deities are summoned to the body of the performer. The performers are generally men and they perform in a kaavu (small rain forest) manifesting varied aspects of nature. The performers are decorated with leaves, garlands, flowers and fruits. The headgear is really big and personifies Chamundi Theyyam who is the goddess invoked. Particularly prevalent in North Malabar, there are several types of Theyyam, and the dance is performed near temples. There are particular communities that follow this custom with strict adherence.

Puli Kali is the play of the leopard or tiger; dancers are attired with masks and are completely made-up like tigers. It is performed by men, women and children during festivals like Onam. Pot-bellied men practically shake their bellies that are painted with the face of the tiger! It has more of recreational value of fun and frolic and is prevalent in many districts of Kerala.


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What are the lesser known art forms of Ottam Thullal?

The word ‘Ottam’ mean ‘running’ and ‘Thullal’ means a form of ‘dancing’. In other words Ottam Thullal is a playful dance with entertainment, accompanied by a message and with plenty of puns and satire. Kunjan Nambiar was a great promoter of this art, who also composed the lyrics in Malayalam which can be understood by the common people. For instance “Ottam Thullal thulli Verumbo, Veetil Kanji KudikyanIlla, Ethera Valliye Vanna Thadiyan, Yedenna Kollam, Yendena Kollam, Ullokeya Polay Oru Thannine Kollam” (After the Ottham Thullal, the artiste returns home but has no food to eat, what is the use of being such a big man when he is unable to take care of his basic needs). Known as the ‘poor man’s Kathakali’, the make-up, costume and technique of performance is comparatively quite simple.

Another interesting thing is that the Thullal dancer himself plays the role of both the storyteller and the performer and the way he manages both the role is quite fascinating. And the entire performance provides for thought and entertainment for the audience.


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What are the lesser known art forms of Chakyar Koothu?

Chakyar Koothu for generations has been performed by the traditional family of Chakyars. Chakyar and Nangiars are two particular communities of Kerala that have developed their lives to the propagation and promotion of this unique performing art. The artiste is attired in a strange style that symbolises a bird, and gives a comic touch to the personality of the artiste. The artiste is known as a court jester or vidhushak who has a distinct role to perform.

While narrating varied stories from epics, the performer also portrays, enacts and narrates various ills of the society that need to be corrected for the betterment and welfare of the people. During the days of royal patronage, it was not easy for common people to reach the king; hence they would face several problems regarding their survival, and were exploited by rich landlords or feudal lords. Hence this art form was used as a social corrective, so as to attract the attention of the king. While narrating the stories with wit and humour, they would also be related to contemporary society and at times make fun of people from the audience in a different context. While Chakyar Koothu is performed by men, Nangiar Koothu is performed by women.


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What are the lesser known art forms of Koodiyattam?

Koodiyattam is considered the mother of Kathakali, and also the greatest form of Sanskrit theatre that led to the development of the dramatic and form of Kerala. Koodiyattam literally means dancing together and is also based on the ‘sastras’, and the language of hand gestures is derived from Hasta Laksha Deepika and is the original form of dance drama and theatre. Kathakali is considered the refined and decorated form of Koodiyattam that portrays stories of Hindu mythology in a dramatized form. While the costume and make-up of Koodiyattam is comparatively simpler, Kathakali moves forward with stylised make-up and costumes that changes according to the character portrayed.

Inscriptions related to the dramatized dance worship services known as Koothu are available in temples at Tanjore, Tiruvidaimaruthur, Vedaranyam, Tiruvarur, and Omampuliyur. They were treated as an integral part of worship services alongside the singing of tevaram and prabandam hymns. There are mentions in epigraphs those forms of Koothu that are called aariyam when they use languages other than Tamil such as Sanskrit, Pali or Prakrit for plays.


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Rouf is a group dance performed by the women folk of which region?

Rouf is one of the oldest forms of Kashmir dance and performed only by women. The dance is performed by a group of women dressed in colorful pherans with exquisite zari embroidery, in two lines facing each other with their arms around the shoulders of the dancers next to them. They move gracefully back and forth while singing Chakri, a pleasant pathetic song based on mystical Sufi poetry. It is also said that the dance movements are inspired by the lovemaking of the bee or question and answer. It is shared on any festive occasions but especially as a welcoming dance for the spring season and on Id-ul-Fitar and Ramzan days.

The dance is being performed by the women in beautiful costumes and on a piece of characteristic music. In the past, every village, town even streets of Srinagar were resounding with Rouf. The simple footwork of Rouf is both a visual as well as an artistic indulgence.

Rouf is delightful to watch and hear. During the performance of rouf women wear colorful pharans and Kasaba. Rouf songs are not the same during different occasions in Kashmir except for the presentation of dancing style. The rouf which are sung by the Kashmiri women during different occasions depicts different themes like joy, happiness, sorrow, welcome songs, spring songs, etc.


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Which is the Indonesia’s traditional lion dance used as a storytelling device to depict the triumph of good over evil?

In Balinese mythology, Barong is a prominent character taken the form of a lion, regarded as the King of the Spirits who represents Virtue. Barong is seen as ‘a guardian angel’. Opposing Good is represented by another mythical creature called Rangda (‘widow’ in Javanese), the Queen of Demons. Rangda leads an army of evil witches against the leader of the forces of Good. As a mirror of life, the Barong Dance portrays the two characters involved in a never-ending battle.

Balinese people believe each region has its own protective spirit for its forests and lands. For each region, Barong is modeled after a different animal. Barong Ket (Lion Barong) is the most common type found in almost every part of the Island. While Barong Buntut is a type of Barong which only features its front, usually performed by a single dancer. Other types of Barong include Barong Landung (Giant Barong), Barong Celeng (Boar Barong), Barong Macan (Tiger Barong), Barong Naga (Dragon/Serpent Barong).

Regular Barong dance performances can be found in many places in Bali, however, the most popular are performed by the Batu Bulan villagers in the district of Gianyar, or at Kesiman, Denpasar.


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A form of theatre that’s been around for nearly four centuries, which traditional Japanese art form uses dance and song in a highly stylized way?

Kabuki, traditional Japanese popular drama with singing and dancing performed in a highly stylized manner. A rich blend of music, dance, mime, and spectacular staging and costuming, it has been a major theatrical form in Japan for four centuries. The term kabuki originally suggested the unorthodox and shocking character of this art form. In modern Japanese, the word is written with three characters: ka, signifying “song”; bu, “dance”; and ki, “skill.”

Traditionally, a constant interplay between the actors and the spectators took place in the Kabuki theatre. The actors frequently interrupted the play to address the crowd, and the latter responded with appropriate praise or clapped their hands according to a prescribed formula. They also could call out the names of their favourite actors in the course of the performance. The plays often present conflicts involving such religious ideas as the transitory nature of the world (from Buddhism), and the importance of duty (from Confucianism), as well as more general moral sentiments. Tragedy occurs when morality conflicts with human passions. 


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Originating in Odisha, which dance form is considered to be among the oldest surviving Indian classical dances?

Odissi is indigenous to Orissa in eastern India. It is predominantly a dance for women, with postures that replicate those found in temple sculptures. Based on archaeological findings, odissi is belived to be the oldest of the surviving Indian classical dances. Odissi is a very complex and expressive dance, with over fifty mudras (symbolic hand gestures) commonly used.

Initially called ‘Odra-Nritya,’ Odissi is a dance form that’s not just popular in India but also appreciated all over the world. It is a perfect example of great body movements, expressions, and gestures. Its performance collection includes an invocation, nrita, nritya, natya, and moksha.

The themes of this dance come from Vaishnavism and others associated with Hindu gods and goddesses like Shiva, Surya and Shakti.

On top of all this, jewellery that is mostly silver unlike other dance attires that use gold, adds to the charm of the whole dance form. The waistband is another must-add.

This particular dance form is now globally recognised and it entered into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2012 after 560 Indian Odissi dancers gave a performance together to create a new record.


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Which dance form, marked by pointe work that efficiently uses toes, originated in Italy around the 15th Century?

It’s generally agreed that ballet began as a formalized court dance that originated in 15th-century western Europe, first in Italy, then, as Italian nobles and French nobles married, spread to the French courts. Catherine de Medici was an early supporter of the dance and funded early ballet companies in the court of her husband, King Henry II of France. 

In the 19th century, ballet migrated to Russia, giving us classics like “The Nutcracker,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Swan Lake.” The Russians also contributed importantly to the evolution of ballet technique and with that the dominance of highly skilled female ballet dancers or ballerinas.

Defining ballet, on the other hand, is difficult unless one creates a definition that emphasizes its history rather than a specific choreographic vocabulary. What we know as ballet today, which is the neoclassical ballet pioneered by Balanchine, involves dance techniques that bear only the remotest resemblance to the dances that evolved as “ballet” in the Italian and French courts. 

In the 21st-century, important ballet choreographers now incorporate techniques from various “non-balletic” sources. But, although defining it may be difficult, somehow we have a reliable understanding of what is ballet and what is not when we actually see it being danced. 


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Which dance form, usually accompanied by songs, a stick tapped on the floor to keep time, and guitar music, is associated with the Andalusian gypsies of Spain?

Flamenco, form of song, dance, and instrumental (mostly guitar) music commonly associated with the Andalusian Roma (Gypsies) of southern Spain. (There, the Roma people are called Gitanos.) The roots of flamenco, though somewhat mysterious, seem to lie in the Roma migration from Rajasthan (in northwest India) to Spain between the 9th and 14th centuries. 

Flamenco dancers, known as bailaores and bailaoras, are serious and passionate. Typical of flamenco dance, a dancer will often stand motionless and free of expression for the first few moments of a song.

As the dancer begins to feel the music, the dancer might begin a steady beat of loud hand clapping. Then, as emotion builds, the dancer will begin a passionate dance. The dancing often involves fierce stomping, sometimes made louder with percussion attachments on the shoes, and graceful arm movements. Castanets are sometimes held in the hands for clicking, and folding fans are occasionally used for visual impact.


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