Sri Lankan Dancing
Sri Lankan dancing styles have evolved over many centuries. This evolution process has enriched the dancing culture while preserving age old traditional dances. The contemporary and popular dance forms are diverse. They range from classical dance styles such as up/low-country dancing and Bharatha Natyam which demand years of rigorous training and discipline to lighter dance styles such as Bollywood dancing. Sri Lankans enjoy all these diverse dance forms. The dance is paramount in Sri Lankan arts and culture.
It has been recorded that dancing originated in Sri Lanka as part of religious and ritual ceremonies held to expel disasters and welcome prosperity, happiness and good health. One of the oldest styles is known as Kohomba Kankariya which is a ritual dance initiated in 4th century BC during the period of King Pandukhabaya. During the 18th century, while King Narendrasighe was ruling in Kandy, upcountry dance styles were further evolved. King Narendrasigha was married to an Indian princess which was a custom of some Sri Lankan Kings of that era. These alliances have further enriched Sri Lankan dance styles. During this period, Indian musicians and dancers were invited to Kandy and the eighteen Vannams were developed as a collaborative effort.
Gini Sisila (subduing fire or fire dance) is a specialised form of dance which was originated in southern Sri Lanka. During this breathtaking performance, the dancer places a burning torch in his mouth, in some cases up to minutes and drags the blazing torch along the arms and legs. The absolute faith of the dancer protects him from the flames and as a result the dancer emerges without any burns or scorching. This form of dance is performed by specialised and highly skilled dancers.
Upcountry (Kandyan or Udarata), Lowcountry (Pahatharata), Sabaragamu dance forms and Bharatha Natyam can be considered as popular classical dance styles. In addition, Bollywood dance styles and various western dance styles are popular in Sri Lanka.
Indian Dancing The Indian dancing culture dates back to about 5000 years and has evolved over many centuries. The classical dancing in India is closely related to the religion and is being used as a form of worship and to express emotions. According to a legend, the Lord Brahma created the fifth Veda or the Natya Veda, as a simple Veda and handed over to sage Bharatha and asked him to spread it on the earth. The Gods and Goddesses are dancers and passed the art of dancing through human channels. The Nataraja, the supreme manifestation of dancing, is an aspect of Lord Shiva.
Dancing is fundamental to the Indian culture and closely embraced by all levels of the society. Some popular Indian classical dance forms.
- Bharatha Natyam - South India
- Kathak – North India
- Kathakali - Kerala
Bharatha Natyam This dance form is one of oldest in India and closely relates to the roots of Hinduism. This dance style is based on ancient text, Natyashastra, written by the sage Bharatha in 4th century BC.
The Natyashastra reads, "when the world had become steeped in greed and desire, in jealousy and anger, in pleasure and pain, the Supreme one (Brahma) was asked by the people to create an entertainment which could be seen and heard by all, for the scriptures were not enjoyed by the masses, being too learned and ambiguous."
Bharatha Natyam stands for Bhava (mood), Raga (music), Thala (rhythm) and Natyam (Nritta). Movement, expression and music are given equal importance in Bharatha Natyam and it can be considered as poetry in motion.
Kathak Kathak is the major classical dance form of Northern India. Kathak also has a long history and can be traced back to about 4th century BC. This dancing style has started in ancient times with performances of story telling which had elements of singing and dancing. This dance form has gained very high popularity due to its elegant footwork, beautiful movements and expression. The Bollywood dancing is significantly influenced by this form of dancing. Bollywood dancing style is a mixture of Kathak and other dance styles including western dance forms.
Kathakali Kathakali, which means story telling, is a spectacular dance form originated in Kerala. Elaborate costumes and makeup are used to highlight the nature of the character represented while expression and miming/gestures are used to convey a story. Both male and female characters in Kathakali are played by men. Traditionally, females do not take part in this form of dancing.
Bollywood dance style The popular Bollywood dance style needs to be mentioned when Indian dance styles are discussed. Bollywood dancing is becoming popular all over the world and has emerged as a unique form of dance of the 21th century. This form of dance has strong influence from Indian dancing styles. Also, Bollywood dancing styles are influenced by various western dance forms.
It is admirable that a large number of families living in Melbourne with Sri Lankan/Indian origin are committed to preserve Sri Lankan/Indian dancing traditions by supporting the next generation to embrace our diverse dancing culture.