Project: Abhinav Sharma. Guide: Prof. Manohar Khushalani
Jhora folk dance is native to the states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand where it is celebrated with all pomp and show during the springtime celebrations by the locals. Jhora folk dance finds its root in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, historically known as Uttaranchal.
It has been known that certain dance forms require people of a particular caste, age, gender etc, however, in the case of Jhora, everyone irrespective of their social standing, gender and race can be a part of the performance making dance form an all-inclusive and embracing.
Jhora folk dance is usually conducted when the springtime celebrations with the tribal and the local people performing the dance twice a day, that is, in the morning and the evening. Jhora folk dance is also performed at weddings, fairs and festivals to magnify the happiness of the occasion. There is marked high tourist inflow during these times just to witness the spell-bounding and the mystically colourful Jhora dance performances.
The dance performance initially begins with a number of participants and as the music picks up pace, more and more people keep on joining in with a circular formation being maintained at all times. The dancers, standing in a circle, hold the arms of their partners and slightly bend their bodies forward.
The music for the dance has rich tastes of the traditional drum musical instrument called ‘Hurka’. If there are more members then the ‘Hurka’ is accompanied by cymbals. At the initial beat of ‘Hurka’, the left leg is crossed with the right leg to strike the floor. With the completion of the initial beat and the impediment of the second beat, the right foot stands sideways and the dancers make a slight dip and a jump inwards. In this form, the dance progresses in cyclic beats with the ‘Hurka’ player leading the flock.
Jhora dance resonates with the inclusive nature of the hilly areas of North India that is Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and promotes harmony among the people of varying social standings, all the way adding to the richness and the essence of the hilly culture and heritage.
Theater halls have opened in the UK and Australia, and the lights will shine bright on Broadway after two years. It is too early to say whether the policymakers are being over-optimistic or careless. But for most of the world, specifically, India, theater shows will not go live for at least a couple of years. And even when the theaters open with safety protocols, the theater may not remain a financially viable business. Is it the end of theater as we know it? Is it the end of an art form that has been performed for at least 5,000 years? But then theater has survived the plague and the Spanish Flu. Before we speculate about the future, let’s take a moment to investigate the past.
The first obituary of the theater was written in the 1920s when the talkies ushered in a new era of entertainment. But not only did the theater survive the competition from cinema, the Broadway Book Musicals became a billion-dollar industry around the time. The first real blow to small regional and off-off-Broadway theater came from the television in the 1960s when a television set became a household item. But that did not stop Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller from writing great plays. They forced the audience to return to the theaters. Harold Pinter, Beckett, Albee, and more recently Mamet created scintillating works for the stage despite the competition from the cinema and the television industry. The competition challenged theater to become more daring and intelligent.
Talking of India, we must first understand that the Indian theater is more diverse than anywhere else in the world. Indian theater is in part sacred, ritualistic, and regional. There is a deep wide chasm between the text-centric theater that is performed in the cities and the traditional theater that exists in rural India. The traditional Indian forms of performance like nautanki, pandavani, bhavai, terukkuttu, yakshagana and even the classical theater Koodiyattam have a significant regional presence and local patronage. Some of these forms are a few thousand years old and we can assume they have survived epidemics, attacks by Mughal invaders, World wars, famines, floods, earthquakes, poverty, and competition from TV and cinema. Did they survive because they spoke to the audience in their dialect? Are they immortal because they tell the local stories of the land? Or did they survive because of their sacred-spiritual nature and patronage by the temples? The temples were the seats of arts and any attack on the temple was an assault on the arts and the artists of the land. Hence this continuity of art forms is no small miracle. But the urban theater has neither local patronage nor loyalty of committed artists. Therefore, it is starting to crumble under competition from OTT and entertainment in the digital space.
Modern theater, such as we see in the cities, lacks the spectacle of traditional theater and sometimes even entertainment. The traditional theater is non-realistic and highly stylized. The costumes, make-up, body movements, gestures, music and accentuated abhinaya/acting create a performance that is moving, surreal and mesmerizing. The modern theater relies heavily on dialogue and story-telling through realistic verbal acting. The sitcoms on TV and binge-worthy shows on the OTT are also pivoted around the story and dialogue. Why would someone watch a dramatic performance cramped in a theater when they could watch drama on their phones sitting on their couch or even the toilet seat? It isn’t just the ease of watching drama on the phone, but the addiction to the phone that has become an impediment. Not to fault the story-telling. The shows are gripping and fast-paced. But then it is so easy to manipulate the audience and keep them hooked till the end. There are formula sheets, beats, and tricks that every writer in the industry uses to keep you glued to your phone.
The straight plays in Delhi and even Mumbai theaters be it English or the regional languages are laced with activism. Polemics has replaced aesthetics. Left-leaning plays have so much propaganda thrown in the script that the audience can see through it. Can we really blame the audience for not wanting to watch social activism on stage? Directors think they can compensate aesthetic appeal with lighting but they forget the audience is not here to watch a sound and light show. The audience craves good stories. It wants to see life through a clean lens. The audience is done watching Brecht, Beckett, Karnad, and Tendulkar. Bedroom comedies are passé. OTT gives the audience enough sex, comedy, and violence. What can you give them on stage that TV and cinema can’t?
The irony is the directors and actors who are flag bearers of socialism in the theater circle abandon their ideals to work for the commercial OTT and Cinema. The crew and extras are treated as third rate citizens in Bollywood, worse than apartheid, but the champions of social equality on stage never raise their voice against the injustice. And let’s not even discuss the underbelly of theater where fresh actors are made to sweep floors in the name of training. While the artists in traditional art forms are committed to the tradition and the art, the modern actors distance themselves from the theater as soon as they break into the TV/OTT industry. Without fresh ideas and dedicated theater practitioners, theater as we know in Indian cities, is at the brink of extinction.
The pandemic has given us distance and time away from the theater and rehearsal halls to re-imagine our future. It has been a time to experiment and create many futures of theater. Theater companies and individual practitioners moved the theater online within a few months into the pandemic. Broadway HD has been streaming ace-quality theater productions shot on multiple cameras since 2015. National Theater and the Royal Opera House streamed their old productions at the start of the lockdown in UK. The Melbourne Theater Company has recently launched its Digital Theater version where they stream their running shows for a limited time. Going forward, all their productions will be available to watch online for $25. While the digital productions are a great option for the theater aficionados, but a good digital production needs multiple cameras and sophisticated editing.
Watching theater production with limited camera movement can be a tad boring because our minds compare it to the cinema and TV shows. Our minds are accustomed to two second shots. Watching an hour-long play set in the same space, in more or less the same frame becomes tiring unless it’s a fast-paced comedy like ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’, by National Theater. The musicals lose their grandness on the small screen. Lest we forget, the audience goes to the Musicals for live music. The experience of watching a musical on a small screen is unsatisfying.
Independent theater groups experimented with and adapted short stories for online presentations. It started with some artists performing or even reading short stories and plays live on Zoom. The production quality of the online plays was worse than YouTube content because they were shot on phone without professional lighting and sound equipment. The shows were under 30 minutes to accommodate the audience’s attention span. Story-telling was restricted by time and technology. As time passed these experiments faded away and it became clear that the future of theater is not online.
One future of theater could be virtual reality theater that has been in the making since 2016. National Theater has launched a studio where they will use virtual and augmented reality to create shows for a communal virtual experience. It’s the high-tech, AI technology used for immersive story-telling. But this future requires a capital investment of 100 plus cameras, edit suites, and technical crew on top of the cast and the musicians. How many companies can produce this kind of theater? How many of us can afford a ticket to this show?
Of the many futures of theater, one future could have its origin in the past. Richard Schechner, a performance theorist and a veteran performer has been working with Natyashastra for over four decades. Dr. Bharat Gupt, a classical theorist and Natyashastra expert, is mentoring students in Greece, Romania, India and the US to create performances using the principles of Natyashastra. These performances are an organic convergence of music, movement, myth, abhinaya and story. Theater makers could look to Irish story telling as one kind of performance. This is our time to study the past so that we can shape a meaningful future.
Whatever form the theater takes from here, it has to become more immersive, aesthetic, poetic, non-realistic, surreal, intense, and communicative. The stories have to break fresh ground. The writers have to muster courage to experiment with the shape and the structure of the story. The performers have to make a connection with the audience. Theater has to go beyond activism and entertainment to become truly transformative and cathartic.
Folk Dances of India: Ghoomar
Dhanak Preet ki sar pe odh kar ghoomar ghoomar ghoome
O lalak reet sab jag ki chhord kar ghoomar ghoomar ghoome
Dhola wale thaant, ghoomar ghoomar ghoome re baisa, ghoomar ghoome re
Ghoomar Lyrics, Padmaavat
Rajasthan is well famous for its vibrant traditions, enthusiastic dance forms and elegant culture. Ghoomar is just another spectacle of this diversity and culture that started with the Bhil tribe to worship Goddess Sarasvati and is now embraced by other Rajasthani communities.1 Typically performed by women, Ghoomar gained popularity during the reign of Rajputanas, who ruled Jaipur after defeating the Bhils. It is believed that the two communities embraced this folk dance form to signify peace.1
This Folk dance is performed by a group of women moving circularly, swirling and twirling around in their flowing robes called ‘ghagharas’, a traditional Rajasthani long skirt. This spectacular folk dance derived its name from ‘ghoomna’ and is elegantly showcased by women wearing a veil, ‘ghoonghat’ on their head covering their face.2 The upbeat rhythm and graceful and elegant gestures like pirouettes, finger-snapping, beating palms, and other foot movements maintain the tempo. This splendid spectacle fills the body with enthusiasm and zeal for our old long-standing Indian traditions.
According to rituals, it is mostly performed by the newly married bride on being welcomed to her new marital home. Ghoomar is often celebrated at weddings, festivals and other religious occasions too.2,3 This folk dance symbolizes the transformation of young girls to womanhood in the Rajput community and traditionally performed in wedding attire.3,4 Kundan, mirror and silver jewellery are used as accessories for the celebration. Women are seen wearing joyous, vibrant colours of red, orange, pink with heavy embroidery and mirror work. They cover their face with a veil threaded with lace and zari borders.2,4 These bright colours signify prosperity and high enthusiasm filled within the community.
Ghoomar is famous all over India and is being performed by various artists and celebrities in movies. Deepika Padukone took more than a month to learn this folk dance to get her footwork right for the film Padmavati. 4
In today’s world, this dance is performed by all ages of women worldwide and is cherished as a historically and culturally significant entertainment folk dance form.3 It showcases the rich culture of Rajasthan through aesthetically pleasing movement and traditional attire. Tourism in Rajasthan has boosted due to the peculiarities of regions, their manner of dressing, traditions, and folk dances. Ghoomar was a tribal dance that graduated to a folk routine that has now assumed international proportions thanks to a vibrant culture and its recognition as a pride of India.
_________________________________ Independent Project by Sezal Chug Guide: Prof. Manohar Khushalani __________________________________
Raas Leela, commonly referred to as Krishna dance, is a folk dance form that predates ancient history and is part of the traditional stories of Krishna in which he dances with his lover, Radha. Raas means aesthetics, and Leela means to act or play, which translates to “play of aesthetics”.1
The Raas Leela takes place when the Gopis of Vrindavana sneak away from their families to the forest to dance with Krishna throughout the night after hearing Krishna’s flute’s sound.2 Raas Leela is considered to be an expression of passion and love for our special person. Raas Leela is a popular dance form in Mathura and Vrindavana’s regions in Uttar Pradesh, especially during the festivals of Janmashtami and Holi. It is observed as one of the State Festivals of Assam, which usually is celebrated during Late November.3
Swami Sri Uddhavaghamanda Devacharya, a prominent saint and a disciple of the world-renowned Swami Sri Harivyasa Devacarya in the early 15th Century, started this whole idea of performances of Raas Leela in Vrindavan, Mathura.1 Swami Uddavaghamanda trained his students, the Brahmachari, to play the parts that appeared in the songs like “The Vani literature of Vraja” to get a visual representation of the Leela that was being described. Many people were sceptical of this idea of the enactment of Raas Leela on stage.3 However, traditions say that Lord Krishna himself appeared to empower the actors to represents the love between Krishna and Radha and remind people of the core values behind Raas Leela. This popular dance form has been performed worldwide and is enjoyed by people at festivals, celebrations and get-togethers.
__________________________________ Independent Project by Sezal Chug Guide: Prof. Manohar Khushalani __________________________________
India is one of the world’s oldest civilizations globally, and it encompasses a kaleidoscopic variety and rich cultural heritage. We have strengthened our socio-economic hold in the world ever since Independence. However, our classical heritage is something to be cherished since the very beginning of civilization. One of India’s famous classical dances that represent the historical enchantress avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu was developed in Kerala called Mohiniyattam.4 According to the mythological text, Vishnu took Mohini’s form to distract the demon Bhasmasura, while the gods took the elixir of immortality from the churning of the celestial oceans and thus saved the world from destruction.2 The Mohini myth forms the heart of every Mohiniyattam performance as it stands for good prevailing over evil.2
The earliest mention of this word can be found in the 16th-century text Vyavaharamala. The dance was systematized in the 18th century but later ridiculed as a Devdasi prostitution system during the British Raj, where it faced many bans.2 The socio-political conflict ultimately led to the revival and reconstruction of Mohiniyattam by the people of Kerala, particularly the poet Vallathol Narayana Menon. Since then, Mohiniyattam has not only been the focus of academic study but has also been integrated across India into the curricula of other art schools and universities.1
Like most classical dances, its roots come from the ancient Hindu Sanskrit performance arts named Natya Shastra. It follows the delicate, eros-filled and feminine Lasya style performed by a woman after extensive training. 3Mohiniyattam’s repertoire includes Carnatic style music, singing and performing a play by expressing your feelings in a musical. The song is typically a hybrid of Malayalam-Sanskrit and is called Manipravalam.1 Through delicate footsteps, undulating body motions, and subtle but poignant facial expressions, Mohiniyattam projects the essence of feminine grace-a quality. It is also noteworthy for their shringara (erotic) depictions of divine love.2
The South Indian Classical Music Ensemble for Mohiniyattam included a vocalist, a toppi maddalam (barrel drum) and a vina (long-necked lute). However, in the modern world, toppi maddalam is replaced by a mridangam (double-headed drum), and the vina is substituted by a violin. Manipravala, a literary mixture of Malayalam and Sanskrit, is the language of song texts.3,5
Mohiniyattam comprises 40 various basic movements called adavukal characterized by the swaying of hips and the gentle movements from side-to-side with straight body posture. Like most other classical dance forms in India, this dance utilizes the sign language (mudra) mentioned in the ancient Hastha Lakshanadeepika treatise to convey the story.5 These mudras are expressed through the fingers and palms of the hands. Mohiniyattam emphasizes acting and expressing emotions through a musical performance wherein the performer identifies herself with the character and resonates her sentiments in the compositions like the Padams and Pada Varnams.5 A white sari, bordered with broad golden brocade (called kasavu in Malayalam) forms the simple but elegant attire for Mohiniyattam.3 This costume provides it with a unique identity among classical dance forms of India. It leaves the audience with an awe of the performer.
For many years now, Indian Classical dance has been one of the most influential folk forms globally. Foreigners are mesmerized by our rich cultural capital and continue to remain in awe of our history and our styles’ evolution. The choreography, costumes, jewellery, and makeup continue to inspire, dazzle, and dominate the global cultural market. This proves that the finesse and richness of our heritage are alive and will grow with generations to come.
_____________________________________ Independent Project by Sezal Chug. Guide Prof. Manohar Khushalani _____________________________________
Kathakali is a major classical dance form from Ancient India. It is a “story play” of art that includes elaborate, colourful makeup, beautiful mesmerizing costumes and face masks traditionally performed by male dancers. It is a Hindu folk dance performed in the Malayalam speaking southwest region of Kerala. Kathakali is derived from Katha, which means “story or a traditional tale”, and Kalī means “performance or art”.1 Kathakali is a long tradition that symbolizes the eternal fight between good and evil. It was given its present form by Mahakavi Vallathol Narayan Menon, the founder of the Kerala KalaMandalam.
Being a more relatable form of art strikes a chord with the public as it embodies their customs and religions. It involves vigorous and florid movements, stylized gestures and loads of facial expressions. These gestures are broad and robust, and faces are made from face paint which look like masks. The characters of Kathakali express their emotions and the story through songs from the background and their unique loud expressions. Dances rely on hand gestures, known as mudra, to convey the soul of the story.2,3 Costumes, makeup and face masks are the most distinguishing features of this classical dance. There are several kinds of costumes including, Sathwika (the hero), Kathi (the villain), Minukku (females), and Thatti.1 Each character is easily recognizable by his makeup, costume and mask. This costume consists of a full skirt and heavy jacket with embellished garlands and jewellery.4 The musical notes of Kathakali are similar to the traditional classical music of South India; however, the instruments used are different. Chenda, idakka, and shuddha madalam are the most common instruments used.3 It leaves a spellbound experience to its viewers and performs epic Indian ancient folklore with the most intricate and mesmerizing movements.
Kathakali combines drama, dance, music, storytelling, costumes, makeup and devotion into a divided experience. It brings humanity into Hinduism and expresses emotions beyond words.2 These temple rituals have evolved into a vibrant drama that encircles the essence of being a human. It provides a spectacle to live and an opportunity to view the ancient lifestyle and heritage preserved for centuries.5 This theatre has now reached the doors of the most powerful forms of storytelling in the world theatre and unlocked appreciation for Indians worldwide. Kathakali unlocked the mystery of the Sanskrit poems and made them accessible to the broader community.
Folk music, dance and theatre represent the traditions and cultural richness of an area. It sheds light on rural life, which is closely associated with inherent customs. Uttrakhand has a vibrant culture, and the diverse, authentic folk dance forms reflect the same. The fascinating mythical dancing damsels that dwell on the snow-clad peaks of the Himalayas are the inspiration of most folk dances.1 These folk dances mainly performed in groups while worshipping or celebrating. These folk dances are influenced by the public’s divine connection with “Natraja”, Lord Shiva, and the relationship of “Pandava” in Mahabharata to the Garhwali Himalaya. Dancing and theatre run in the veins of the Garhwali, the locals of the Garhwali region celebrate their joys and sorrows through dance.1 The five most popular dances of the Garhwali locals and their stories behind them are below.
Pandav Nritya The Pandava Nritya describes the tale of the five brothers in the Hindu mythology of Mahabharata. This traditional cultural dance is a 10-12 day celebration that depicts the various stages of their lives.2 It is believed that the energies of the five Pandavas enter the body of performing artists during the stage performance, which ends with a grand feast organized for the entire village. It is a simple narration of Mahabharata’s story and is enacted during the occasion of Diwali in the popular districts of Chamoli and Pauli Garhwal.2
Bhotia Dance The Bhotiya tribe of the Gharhawali region, just as their name is well known for the dance of the dead.1 The folk dance performed by the locals is closely linked to the death rituals. A popular belief amongst these locals is that souls of the dead live in cattle’s body even after the human body dies. By performing this dance, they believe that these souls of the dead would be liberated from the animal’s body, and these elders would attain peace.2
Barada Nati The folk dance of Jaunsar Bhawar area of Chakrata Tehil in Uttrakhand is performed on the eve of religious festival and celebrations.2 Both men and women participate and bring colours to this celebration with their fascinating colourful traditional costumes.
Bajuband This is folk dance depicting love and sacrifice between shepherds and their flock. It is a love dialogue between a man and a woman sung and performed by the locals in folklore. It represents the love and passion that a Shepard has and to what extent does he go to protect his flock from intruders.2
Basanti This folk dance is performed during the spring season when flowers bloom and new life is glowing in the int valleys of the hills of the Garhwal region. It sets the tone for the harvest season and brings new joys of celebration to the local community.
Khuded These folk songs depict the suffering of a woman due to separating from her husband. The woman curses the circumstances in which she is separated. She is filled with sorrow and passion, which shows her love for her husband. ‘Laman’ and ‘Pawada’ are a few folk songs sung during this time, making us feel the agony and misery of this separation.1
Many theories surround these folk dances say that the souls of the young unmarried girls who died with no funeral rites or the daughters of Ravana who offered them to Lord Shiva as his handmaidens.
Folklore of Uttarakhand represent the love, passion, agony, sacrifice, misery, and compassion of these locals and help us relate to them to share their feelings.
Kuchipudi is one of the major Indian classical dance folk forms performed in India. It derives its name from its village of origin, Kuchelapuram and is one of the favourite dance forms of Lord Krishna.1 It is considered to be a form of dance-drama that is well known under the generic name of Yakshagaana. Similar to other dance forms, Kuchipudi has its roots that originated from Sanskrit Natya Shastra, the foundations of performing arts.
In the 17th century, Yakshagana created by Siddhendra Yogi, a talented Vaishnava poet whose inspiration for the art form is said to have come from Lord Krishna in a dream.2 He had a dream in which Lord Krishna came and asked him to compose a dance-drama based on the myth of the bringing of paarijaata flower for Sathyabhaama, the most beloved queen of Krishna. It led to the creation of Bhaamaakalaapam, which Yogi composed and is still practised in different parts of the world.2 The disciples of Siddhendra Yogi have written several plays, which are performed and celebrated to date.
Kuchipudi is known for its fast rhythms and fluid movements, creating a blend of delicacy and strength. In this dance form, a male dancer usually wears an Agnivastra, which included a dhoti, whereas a female dance wears a sari. Modern Kuchipudi acquired its present form in the 20th century. Several people were responsible for moving it from the villages to the performance stage. One of the most notable was guru Lakshminarayan Shastry.
Traditionally, all males performed Kuchipudi until a colonial-era when Lakshminarayana revolutionized the concepts of this art form. He introduced females to the art form, along with the idea of solo-dancing.3 After him, many other visionaries have moulded it into its present shape.
In today time, the concepts laid out by Lakshminarayana have cemented their place in our minds for eternity. The Kuchipudi performance is accompanied by a live orchestra comprising of singing and percussions. The hand gestures, also called mudras and facial expressions, are stylized to convey a wide range of complex sentiments and feelings.2 The whole body is responsible for communicating the emotions which arise from the song.
Kuchipudi has for sure occupied a special place among other Indian classical dance forms by being a country-wide celebrated dance folk form and is recognized worldwide in many international traditional festivals.