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  DANCE COLUMN
FOLK DANCES OF INDIA: FROM THE STATE OF GUJARAT


Jyothi Venkatachalam
By JYOTHI VENKATACHALAM

The classical dances in India tend to be subject to a definite order, a recognized strict form and a complicated system of gesture, language, footwork, bodily movements and rhythm. However, folk dances are generally quite spontaneous and the creation of the people’s imagination and desire for artistic and emotional _expression. Displaying no inclination toward a rigid form, the whole depiction of folk art is guided more by the subject of the songs that glorify nature, express traditional occupations or offer devotion to the deities. Folk dances are an integral part of our Indian culture.

Indian folk and tribal dances are simple dances, and performed to express joy. Folk dances are performed for every possible occasion – to celebrate the arrival of seasons, a wedding and festivals. The dances burst with verve and vitality. Men and women perform some dances exclusively, while in some performances men and women dance together. On most occasions, the dancers sing themselves, while being accompanied by artists on the instruments. Each form of dance has a specific costume. Most costumes are flamboyant with extensive jewels.

The vast Indian subcontinent has given birth to varied forms of dancing, each shaped by the influences of a particular period and environment. All Indian dances portray some _expression of life and almost every dance posture has a specific meaning. Different states in India have different folk dances. Today, we shall learn about the folk dances from the state of Gujarat.

GARBA: The most popular dance form of Gujarat originates from the custom of dancing in praise of goddess during the nine-day celebration of Navratri, one of the biggest festivals the western state. Danced mostly by women, garba is a lively dance number, where the dancers vary their rhythmic patterns of steps in accordance to the music beat sometimes in swirling fast steps and at other times in graceful slow movements. Women are dressed in colorful, ghagras with rich embroidery. The cholis are designed in the traditional ‘Kaapada’ style with long sleeves embroidered with mirrors. The odhinis are bright colored.

Raas: Raas danced by either men or women and sometimes by both has evolved from the Krishna Leela. This particular dance form is performed with short colorful sticks. The dancers weave their steps together and make intricate patterns of dance to different rhythmic combinations.

Tippani: This dance performed only by women is one of the few dances, which have evolved from the daily work of pounding the ground during construction of buildings. Women dance with long sticks, which they pound rhythmically upon the ground on which they dance.

Dangi: This is a tribal dance from the district of Dang, a thickly forested area of Gujarat. Men and women dance together holding one another by the waist. During the dance, the dancers also perform acrobatics. One of the most amazing sights of this dance is the creation of the human pyramid.

Bhil: Bhil dance, from the Panchmahal district of Gujarat is a pure tribal dance performed by the hunter tribe called the Bhils. The men hold bows and arrows in their hands and the women hold colorful fans. This is performed on festive occasions usually at the end of a day of hard work. Gauf: This rare dance from Gujarat is performed with colored ropes held in the hands of the dancers. As they move with the song and rhythm, a beautiful pattern is made in the center with the ropes suspended from the top.

Raasdo: Raasdo differs from the usual raas in which it is performed. Only men perform this dance from Porbandar. This form of Raas is extremely lively and vigorous.

Damru, Tabla, Nagara and pot drum are among the instruments; percussion, Ektaro, Ravan hattho and Jantar are among the string instruments and Pavo, shehani, murli, turi and taturi are wind instruments used as accompaniments in the folk dances

Folk dances are full of spontaneous freedom and grace. Living and moving in natural surroundings, they are vivid, temperamental, strong often primeval and filled with zest of living. In our next issue, we shall learn about folk dances of the other states of India.

Jyothi Venkatachalam, director of Abhyasa School Of Dance, Club Tampa Palms, offers classes in Bharat Natyam, traditional folk dances, Indian percussion instruments (Mridangam, Dholak, Ghatam, Kanjira, Morsingh and Konakol). She can be reached at (813) 977-9039 or (813) 404-7899 or via e-mail at jvenkata@yahoo.com




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