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South Asia


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The classical dance forms of South Asia, or the Indian sub-continent, evolved as vehicles for portraying the characters and stories of the gods. Shiva is known as the Lord of the Dance and according to Hindu legend created heaven and earth when he performed his Dance of Creation. Bharata's treatise the Natya Shastra was written c.200 bc–ad 300 and its guidelines on dance, drama, and music acquired the status of holy writ. The main dance forms are bharata natyam from S. India, kathakali from S.W. India, manipuri from N.E. India, kuchipudi from S.E. India, odissi from Orissa, and kathak from N. India. These also had a formative influence on the dances of S.E. Asia. Under colonial rule these ancient dance forms were frequently degraded but the 20th century saw a major renaissance of standards in both teaching and performance. Pavlova learnt Indian dance from Uday Shankar and performed the duet Radha and Krishna with him in 1923, but the most influential performer in the West for many years was Ram Gopal. On his many tours from the late 1930s through to the 1970s he initiated a new international audience into the aesthetic of Indian dance and also performed with Markova. Today classical Indian dance is taught and performed in many countries and a new generation of artists has begun to evolve contemporary versions of classical forms. British-based choreographers like Shobana Jeyasingh and Akram Khan have brought aspects of Western modern dance to their choreographic idiom while Indian-based Chandralekha turned to martial arts and yoga for new influences. Among younger choreographers based in India there is wide experimentation with new music, a marked modernization of costume and stage manner, and a tendency to work with ensembles rather than soloists. At the Keralan-based Samudra Centre for Performing Arts, choreographers work within a fusion of classical Indian and contemporary Western forms, eschewing traditional narrative. Other centres of experimentation include the Darpana Academy supporting work by Mallika Sarabhai, and the Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts in Bangalore, an umbrella organization for dancers and choreographers founded in 1992 by Jayachandran Palazhy. The commercial Indian film industry has exerted a strong influence on popular dance. While earlier films featured choreography modelled on classical Indian styles, more recent films have developed styles influenced by MTV, street dance, and stage musicals.

http://www.attakkalari.org Website for the Attakkalari Centre

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