Nature and Role of Culture in Defining Folk Dancing: Indian Dancing as a Model
Dr. Husam Muhseb - Egypt
This article affirms that folk dancing is inseparable from the folk environment where it is born and communicated by different generations. The source of folk dancing is usually unknown but it remains practiced in its natural environment. When people move to other countries, they take their folk culture with them but they adapt it to the new environment. When performed on the stage, however, folk dancing begins to sever ties with its origin as it acquires various theatrical forms by dance designers in what is called reinstating tradition.
The author takes as his model Indian folk dancing as culture and ethnicity in Indian are so diverse due to migrants from Greece and Middle Asia who settled and mixed with aborigines resulting in such a variety of ethnical groups and languages. India now has more then 844 local dialects and several religions such as Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, (Zradisht!!!) and Judaism. This has given rise to a rich wealth of dancing forms and music. In fact, Indian modern dancing forms are a mixture of inherent and modern ballet movements which emerged from public dancing. This varied mixture is a symbol of the Indian cultural heritage which has maintained its pure essence and dynamicity that still influences other artistic forms and creates new more sophisticated ones. Thus, Indian folk and classical dancing forms are inseparable and constantly interact since folk dancing sometimes derives its content from classical dancing while classical dancing derives dynamicity and spontaneity from folk dancing.
While folk dancing forms in particular parts of India have their own characteristics which distinguish them different from other forms, they have some similarity with other forms in certain parts of the country. And while the climate and the agricultural environment render those forms different, literature and legend bring them together. By its very nature, Indian dancing is dynamic, flexible and resilient. It has, therefore, retained these forms for centuries and maintained interaction with the Indian cultural heritage. This nature has also enabled it to adapt to new developments and accommodate external influences.
Since Indian folk dancing is strongly connected with nature, the agricultural district of Ben jab is famous for the ‘bahanjra’ dance which represents the rituals of planting wheat. Indians in that area perform this dance with great enthusiasm to celebrate the wheat farming season. Only a few can resist the temptation of the rhythmic bangs of the double-sided drum called “Dhulak” which is similar to the Egyptian “Nagrazan” drum. Pairs of dancers exchange roles in performing complex aerobatic movements in the dance circle.
Women perform a dance called “jeedha” which is characteristically spontaneous and enthusiastic. With veiled faces, they look like whirls of colors while dancing swiftly on their toes.
In the fishing community of Mahar Ashtra, men and women dance together with interwined hands, then women climb on men’s shoulders in beautiful pyramidic forms. Women dances are famous for having some liberal movements.
Besides, there are varied forms of folk dancing such as “nowtanki” in Rajistan, “bhavai kujaratya, tamasha maharashtratya, and Jatra” in Bengal, and “bakshajana karintakya and thiyam kirayeh”, etc. All these dances represent legends of local heroes, kings and gods. But wedding dances in different parts of the country are characterized by their semi-dancing movements. The most famous are the tribal dances in the north eastern area as well as “lazim mahar ashtratya, kalaribabatu kirali, and tishhaw tinkreh” in Oresa district.
From folk dancing stemmed classical traditions in music in India. There are six main classical dances: “bahrata natiam”, “odessi orisa”, “manibouri”, etc.
It is hard to trace the real history of these dances in their current forms beyond 200-300 years, but they are all deep rooted in arts, literature, sculpture, and music of the ancient and middle Indian ages.
All these dances follow the rules of classical dancing recorded in “natiashastra” which is a text, dating back to the 2nd century BC, and which is said to have been revealed to the wise Baharta by god Brahma. The text specifies the main features and movements of dancing which are termed “nirita or naritya” (pure dancing) which depends on mimic movements, and it.