Photographer Raj Laxmi Singh is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this photo essay. From the project ‘Capture the Beautiful Movement of Dancers ’. To see Raj’s body of work, click on any image.
Dance is the form of vibration of our body and mind. It is a form of worship through which a dancer can reach the Almighty. It is a form of Yoga. A dancer can only reach this stage through continuous training i.e. ‘Sadhana’.
I have captured Indian classical dance during a live performance and in a studio shoot. Each has the special flavor that lends itself to the aura of the performed art, and the quality of which I try to capture in my camera. The performing arts are most temporal – the moment you perform it dies. So I capture the artist’s expression, feeling and emotion in my camera. I think all photographs are the universal language that everyone easily understands. Since each picture has its own narrative and story.
An Introduction to India’s Classical Dance Forms
Kathak: The origin of Kathak is traditionally attributed to the traveling bards of ancient northern India known as Kathakars or storytellers. Kathak dancers tell various stories through their hand movements and extensive footwork, but most importantly through their facial expressions. Kathak evolved during the Bhakti movement, particularly by incorporating the childhood and stories of the Hindu god Krishna, as well as independently in the courts of north Indian kingdoms. Kathak is unique in having both Hindu and Muslim gharanas and cultural elements. Kathak is found in three distinct forms, called “gharanas”, named after the cities where the Kathak dance tradition evolved – Jaipur, Banaras and Lucknow.
- Bharatnatyam: Natya Shastra emphasizes that performing arts is not meant for entertainment only. Bharatnatyam originated in the Southern state of Tamil Nadu. The dance is a physical expression of mythical stories and is accompanied by classical music.
The Bharatnatyam dancer is accompanied by a nattuvanar (or taladhari) that is a vocalist who generally conducts the whole performance, a part often executed by the guru. The person can also play the cymbals or any other instrument. The music associated with Bharatanatyam is in South India’s Carnatic style and instruments played comprise of cymbals, the flute, a long pipe horn called nagaswaram, a drum called mridangam and veena. The verses recited during performance are in Sanskrit, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu.
The style of dressing of a Bharatanatyam dancer is more or less similar to that of a Tamil Hindu bride.
- Odissi: Odissi or Orissi is one of the pre-eminent classical dance forms of India which originated in the Hindu temples of the eastern coastal state of Odisha in India. Its theoretical base trace back to ‘Natya Shastra’, the ancient Sanskrit Hindu text on the performing arts. A form of illustrative anecdote of mythical and religious stories, devotional poems and spiritual ideas emoted by dancer with excellent body movements, expressions, impressive gestures and sign languages, its performance repertoire includes invocation, nrita, nritya, natya, and moksha. This dance form includes themes from Vaishnavism and others associated with Hindu gods and goddesses like Shiva, Surya and Shakti.
The unique feature of this dance form is that it incorporates Indian ragas, both from south and north that indicate exchange of concepts and performance arts between the two parts of India. ‘Shokabaradi’, ‘Karnata’, ‘Bhairavee’, ‘Dhanashri’, ‘Panchama’, ‘Shree Gowda’, ‘Nata’, ‘Baradi’ and ‘Kalyana’ are the main ragas of Odissi. The musical instruments include tabla, pakhawaj, harmonium, cymbals, violin, flute, sitar and Swarmandal.
- Kuchipudi: The dance form originated in Andhra Pradesh and Similar to all leading Indian classical dance forms, Kuchipudi too evolved as a religious art rooting back to the age-old Hindu Sanskrit text ‘Natya Shastra’ and connects traditionally with temples, spiritual faiths and travelling bards. While a male character wears dhoti, a female character wears a colorful sari that is stitched with a pleated cloth which opens like a hand fan when the dancer stretches or bends her legs while portraying spectacular footwork. The musical instruments usually include cymbals, mridangam, tambura, veena and flute.
All images and text © Raj Laxmi Singh
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