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Classical Dance Form: Kathak
Folk Dances: Chholia, Raslila, Khyal, Nautanki, Naqal, Svanga, Charkula
Religious Dance Form : Ramlila

Dance is a way of life for the people of Uttar Pradesh. Their enthusiasm and liveliness finds expression in their rhythmic dances. In the 18th and 19 th centuries, Muslim influence saw the emergence of an astounding range of dance forms that remain prominent in the performing arts of India. Kathak, one of the four classical dances of India, originated here. Ramlila, Rasalila, Nautankis and folk dances of Kumaon hills (Jhora, Chhapeli, Jagar) are all dances, that reflect the lifestyle and beliefs of the people.

Kathak  Dance - One of the most famous dance forms in India, Uttar PradeshThe main genre of north Indian classical dance, developed under the Nawabs, the main theme being that of Krishna cavourting with the gopis. The performances rely on strong and energetic footwork around laikari, the intricate rhymthic compositions, accompanied by tabla.

This is a martial dance of the Kumaon region of Uttar Pradesh. Traditionally, it used to be performed by warriors after their victorious return from battle. Now, the dance is performed on festivals such as Holi, Diwali, and in weddings. The dance displays acrobatic skills of the dancers who use swords and shields. The dance movements include whirls, jumps, twists and turns.
It is a generic term that includes many dances and dance-dramas throughout the country, all of them based on one theme. The term 'ras' refers to Krishna's joyous, circular dance with the maids and the wives of Brahmin cowherds of the region, known as Braj. Lila means play: not merely literally, but also God's playful interaction with humans and other earthly beings. The other forms of raslila such as Krishnattam and Ankiya Nat are not as widely popular as the 'raslila' of Vrindavan. This form is believed to have developed in the sixteenth century due to the influence of the bhakti wave.

Khyal, a folk art form popular in Rajasthan as well. While the origin of Khyal remain uncertain, it is a establidhed fact that Agra was an important center. There are different styles, each known by the name of the city, the acting style, the community or the author. For example: Jaipuri Khyal, the Abhinaya Khyal, Gadhaspa Khyal, and Alibaksh Khyal. Subtleties demarcate these variations.

Kathak Dance, Uttar PradeshThe festive atmosphere in no way undercuts the religious undertones of an event. Performances begin with hymns to the deities. The plays are mythological, historical, or creative in content, and are marked by romance, brave deeds, and sentiment. Equally festive music is ensured by the nakkara or the dholak drum, cymbals, and the harmonium.

The clown is as always an integral part of a show, of and the all-male cast is directed - on stage, by the ustaad, the director producer, who remains on stage with a prompt script.

It is a form of Svanga, and believed to be named after a popular play Shahzadi Nautanki (The Story of Princess Nautanki). The plays may be based on historical, mythological or folk stories, and are either narrated or enacted in the grandiose epic style. The songs are increasingly film-based, although folk music has not been abandoned.

The stage manager (ranga) is part of the company of ten or twelve actors. Performances can be staged anywhere, and are generally moralistic in tone. Comic and dialogue sequences are interspersed for the purpose of changing momentum.

The two major styles of Nautanki are Hathras and Kanpur. Hathras is the older version and was encouraged by Indarman and Natharam, his disciple. In the nineteenth century, they organized akharas (training centers), where the khalifa (leader) reigned supreme. His word was law. The singing style was high on pitch and style. The rebellion against the control of the khalifa led to the Kanpur variation, created by Sri Krishna Pahalvan that has remained simple in song but elaborate in stage scenery.
Charkula - A Dance Form from Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh
Naqal is a farce with a leader known as the Khalifa. The clown determines the action and pace through his witticism and antics. What makes this play interesting is the fact that the all-male cast satirizes the audience as well. 'Naqal' is also known as 'Naqqal' and 'Nakkal' and is highly popular in Punjab and Kashmir .

Also called Sangeet, has its origins in the late eighteenth century. This folk form, prevalent in Haryana and Punjab as well, is sourced in the ballads and semi-historical stories. Festivals and family occasions are reasons for a performance. An all-male cast will stage a play in the village open or in a patron's house. The simple costumes are contrasted with fancy head dresses, and lots of false hair. Dialogues dominate the show, with songs occupying a secondary position.

The Story of Rama is a generic term, including all performances pertaining to the life of the epic hero Rama, believed to be one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu (the Preserver).

The stories deal with his exile from his kingdom at Ayodhya; his subsequent victory over Ravan (the demon-king); the interaction between Rama and Sita (his wife, who accompanied him in his exile), and his brothers Lakshmana, Shatrughan and Bharat.

Traditionally Brahmin boys who are trained by the 'liladhari' (the leader of the troupe) play the characters of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Shatrughan and Bharat.

This is a traditional folk dance of Braj, where a female dancer balances a column of lighted lamps, 'deepikas' over her head, while dancing. The 'charkula', a tapered wooden column with four to five circular tiers has earthern lamps on each level. The number of lamps can range from 51 to 108 at times. The dancer, with her face vieled moves with swift graceful movements while balancing the 40 to 50 kg 'charkula' on her head. This visually attractive, dramatic dance is performed on the dooj of Holi, to the accompaniment of 'rasiya' songs rendered by the menfolk.

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