The Evolution of Dance

All of the inimitable Indian dance forms have a rich historical tradition; they are either presented as a social interaction or a spiritual performance. To understand the evolution of the form of art wherein the body is used as a medium for communication, we will have to fly back to 2nd century BC, where archaeological evidences show a beautiful statuette of the dancing girl of Mohenjo Daro. Evidences also include cave paintings which indicate that dance has been part of celebrations and rituals from the ancient human civilizations. The rock paintings of Bhimbetka Caves in Madhya Pradesh also prove the existence of Apsaras (celestial maiden dancers) which are almost 30,000 years old.

Shiva’s cosmic dance, Tandava, Kali’s dance of creation and destruction, Krishna’s dance with Gopikas, and the raas leela are all popular motifs of dance in the Hindu mythology. It is believed that all forms of Indian classical dances owe allegiance to Natya Shastra, which was created by Lord Brahma. It is said that Natya Shastra explains the intricacies of dance and details of all its aspects like mudras, stage designs, emotions, music, and so much as makeup and attire.


If dance in ancient India was considered as a means of communication, then the other part of the story says that dance was used in healing rituals. From the Brazilian rain forest to Kalahari desert, dance has been used for healing purposes by many cultures. There are more than 1100 dancing forms which are ethnic, regional, and folk dances.

Over the course of time, Indian dance underwent a transformation. This could be due to the country’s exposure to Western art forms. Fusing outside influences with classical and traditional forms gave rise to a contemporary style of Indian dance. From court dancing to romanticism and then to contemporary dance, the evolution has seen many alterations.

India offers a number of classical dance forms such as Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Odissi, etc which originate from the influences of particular regions of India. Several other semi-classical dances also contribute to the plethora of Indian dances. India is particularly rich in folk dances which vary geographically. Chauu dance of Bihar, Garba of Gujarat, Bhangra of Punjab, and Banjara of Andhra Pradesh are a few form of folk dances which are also popular for their presentations on occasions like marriage, seasons, rites, celebrations, etc.        –Sumana