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Uday Shankar   ::  Amala Shankar

This dance form traces its origins to the the nomadic bards of ancient northern India, known as Kathaks, or story tellers. These bards, performing in village squares and temple courtyards, mostly specialized in recounting mythological and moral tales from the scriptures, and embellished their recitals with hand gestures and facial ex-pressions. It was quintessential theatre, using instrumental and vocal music along with stylized gestures, to enliven the stories. With the advent of Mughal culture, Kathak became a sophisticated chamber art. Patronized by art loving rulers, the practitioners of Kathak worked at refining its dramatic and rhythmic aspects, delighting elite audiences with their mastery over rhythm and the stylized mime. The technique of Kathak today is characterized by fast rhythmic footwork set to complex time cycles. The footwork is matched by the accompanying percussion instruments such as tabla and pakhawaj, and the dancer and percussionists often indulge in a virtuoso display of rhythmic wizardry.The dance movements include numerous pirouettes executed at lightning speed and ending in statuesque poses. The interpretative portion, based on tales of Radha and Krishna and other mythological lore, contains subtle gestures and facial ex-pressions. Lucknow, Banaras and Jaipur are recognized as the three schools, or gharanas, where this art was nurtured and where the interpretative and rhythmic aspects were refined to a high standard.

In India, dance is an age-old tradition. This vast sub-continent has given birth to varied forms of dancing, each shaped by the influences of a particular period and environment. All Indian dances portray some ex-pression of life and almost every dance posture has a specific meaning. Different states in India has different and colourful folk dances.



Modern Dance in India has a relatively short history. Since the perception of 'modern' or 'contemporary' can vary from dancer to dancer, this dance form cannot be defined as easily as the classical dance styles of India. It is also not codified in a detailed manner, as are the classical styles. Uday Shankar, who was born in the early years of the 20th century, is widely accepted as the Father of Modern Dance in India. This great dancer had a very wide vision, and he appreciated the wonderful variety and scope of ex-pression afforded by the different classical and folk dances extant in the country.

His search for a personal ex-pression led him to incorporate different dance styles, such as Bharata Natyam and Kathakali into his choreographic productions. He established an idyllic institution in the hills of Kumaon, where he invited teachers from different genres to train his troupe in order to groom their bodies to a state where they could produce a varied, rich and contemporary dance vocabulary. Uday Shankar was an idealist as well as a wonderful showman.

He was a catalyst in the renaissance of interest in Indian arts during the 1930s and '40s, and he introduced audiences in the West to Indian dance and music through the performances of his troupe and which was widely known as 'HINDU DANCE'. Some of Uday Shankar's famous works include the innovative ballet, 'Labour and Machinery' and a path breaking film, 'Kalpana,' on the theme of dance.

The institute established by Uday Shankar is now defunct, but his legacy survives in the work of his children and his many disciples, who have their own troupes and students. Today, in addition to the line established by Uday Shankar, there are other practitioners of Modern Dance in India who belong to other schools.


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