Choreography in Indian Classical Dance

Choreography in Western Dance may seem limited. But the fact remains that elements of choreography are the basic part of conception in any Western dance creation. But choreography in Indian Classical Dance has not evolved to the extent to which it has in the West. This is because classical dance began as an independent presentation. The purpose of the performance and with it the stage kept changing, and it is this that impacted the presentation.

Most classical dances were created to be performed in temples. Devotion was the sole essence and purpose behind the performance. Dance was a medium of prayer, and an intensely personal one at that. Naturally, the temple sambalpuri dance platform and the presence of devotees was enough for the presentation. No special thought was given to the aspect of how the presentation could be made more effective.

Later, during the 11th century AD, the dance moved into the courts of the kings. Instead of the temple platform, artists were to perform on a separate half-circular stage. The devotional undertones were replaced with tenets of pure entertainment. This expectation of ‘entertainment’ from the art form was perhaps the reason why the focus shifted towards the arena of presentation, and therefore, choreography in Kathak.

The shift from a Temple platform to a semi-circular stage brought all three dimensions of Space (i.e. height, length and depth) to the forefront. It opened up the option of using of three main directions and two sub directions on each side and elements like Utplawan, Challang etc. were also used to make better use of this Space. The aesthetic aspect of dance was slowly gaining more importance, because now the performance was for the audience, not for the ‘self’.

Today, the stage is a lot more accommodating and, at the same time, demanding. There is a dual purpose to dance – artistic self-fulfillment through creativity as well as visual appeal for the audience. And it is innovation that has lead to the fulfillment of both.

In innovation, it is essential to essentially consider all aspects of choreography for enhancing its effectiveness. In the context of the contemporary stage, consideration for all three basic elements of choreography i.e. Space, Time and Energy must be studied correctly and implemented in a technically perfect manner.

Main aspects of choreography-
1. Theme:
The theme is a critical element for the success of any composition. In Kathak, the theme is represented in two ways – Nritta and Nritya.

a. Nritta
In a Nritta-based composition, the repetitive cycle of the Taal is the main theme. Within a cycle of the Taal various movements, rhythm patterns, compositions (which may be ad-lib i.e. Upaj or pre-fixed i.e. Bandish) are presented in a manner to come back to the first beat of the cycle (sum) at completion, using the artist’s body as the medium. A musical composition equaling the cycle of the Taal (Nagma) is used as the measuring scale in this theme.

This theme is easy to understand and appreciate. However, the exact theme to be presented must be decided based on the audience. For instance, complex mathematically challenging patterns should be avoided in front of common public while they can be presented with aplomb in front of connoisseurs.

 

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