Bharatnatyam, one of the most widely practiced Indian dance forms today originated in the temples of Tamil Nadu. Practiced by the devdasis of the time, it was even written about in Natya Shastra, the magnificent Indian treatise on dance. The dancing Nataraj or Lord Shiva is considered the god of Bharatnatyam and worshipped before any performance.
One of the most graceful yet rigorous dance forms practiced today, a two hour session of Bharatnatyam makes for an excellent cardio workout. Since the emphasis lies on the dancer elegantly maintaining his/her balance through the different postures, it helps strengthen the lower half of your body; specifically the muscles of your thighs and calves.
Learn Bharatnatyam at:
Bangalore: Natyanjali School of Indian Classical Dance; ww.natyanjalibangalore.org
Kolkata: Kalamandalam; www.kalamandalam-calcutta.com
A form of dance that derives its name from the Sanskrit word ‘Katha’ meaning story, Kathak originated as a form of story-telling through dance. A Kathak performance begins with the dancers introducing their characters before the recital. A physically demanding dance, most movements in Kathak are performed straight legged with the dancers wearing ankle bells or ghungroos on their feet.
Kathak ranks so high when it comes to the fitness quotient that there’s actually something called Kathak Yoga doing the rounds. It’s not only a strenuous physical workout but since all dancers practice wearing heavy ghungroos on their feet, it also makes for a weight bearing exercise. Plus, since the final dance performance tells a story, Kathak dancers will spend hours mastering co-ordination between their facial expressions, hand and leg movements to do justice to the tale.
Learn Kathak at:
Chennai: School of Kathak Dance in Chennai; www.devaniya.com
Hyderabad: Basant Natya Kala Mandir; www.natyanjali.weebly.com
Originating in Orissa or Odisha as it is traditionally called, manuscripts show proof of Odissi being the oldest dance form in India. Central to this dance practice is the tribhanga or the tri-bent pose where the body of the dancer is bent at the neck, waist and the knee in a position similar to that found in Indian sculptures.
One of the distinguishing facts of Odissi dance, and also the toughest part of the practice is the immense co-ordination between the different parts of the body in sync with the rhythm. Since all three parts of the body make their own contribution to the art, there’s more than just your feet doing the dancing. In addition, since Odissi also places emphasis on the Nava Rasas or facial expressions it almost becomes an alternate to facial yoga. Keep dancing, and rest assured, you won’t have to worry about saggy skin anytime soon.
Learn Odissi dance at:
Mumbai: Smitalya Dance Academy; www.smitalay.com
Delhi: Patitapawan Kala Niketan; www.patitapawan.com