Folk Dances of North/Central India
This a popular dance of the women of Kashmir, performed during the harvest season and at times of festivals. The dancers form two rows facing each other, and put their arms around the necks or waists of their neighbors. They sing Rouf songs as they step forwards and backwards lightly, without any other musical accompaniment. Individual dancers may break from the rows for brief individual movements in the space between the rows. The Rouf is a very simple dance, winning its appeal from the cheerful spirit of the dancers and the melody of the songs.
Karam refers to a tribal people of Madhya Pradesh, as well as their dance. The dance is performed by women, and involves line formations, with the dancers holding hands, or placing their arms on the hips or shoulders of their neighbors. The foot movements are simple, with gentle swaying of the hips.
The dancers wear saris in a unique way. They reach just above the ankle, higher than a unsual sari. They are worn without blouses, and draped to cover the chest.
The Gedi, or Stilt Dance, is also called Dito Endanna. It is a dance of the Gond people, who are spread widely throughout Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, and are one of India’s more famous tribal groups. Gedi is a pair of bamboo stilts with footrests. The dancers strike the stilts on the ground to produce simple rhythmic beats. The dance is performed in a circle. When children perform, they can end with a pyramid formation.
The Gedi is danced during the sowing season, just before the monsoons, and during the rainy season.
Bhangra is the most widespread of Indian folk dances worldwide, and has influenced popular music and dance, including Bollywood styles, more than any other folk dance. In turn, Bhangra has been influenced by fusion with genres like hip-hop. It was originally performed only by men, but these days women perform it too.
In the traditional sense, Bhangra is a folk dance for harvest festivals, with movements that mimic the activities of farmers. One of the typical movements is to stand with feet apart and knees slightly bent, and arms outstretched, while bouncing the shoulders to the rhythm of the music. Bhangra is a vigorous and energetic dance, full of high jumps and bold movements. Dancers frequently punctuate their performance with yells of, “Balle, balle!” or “Hey, arippa!”.
Bhangra incorporates elements of many other dances from the Punjab region, such as Luddi, Jhumar, Giddha, and Dhamal. For example, holding the arms high, shaking the shoulders, and yelling, come from Dhamal.
Bhangra performances typically end with stunt formations. A favorite is a peacock, with a dancer carrying another on his shoulders, while a third hangs from his torso by the legs. Another classic stunt is a formation resembling a bullock cart. Both of these formations relate to the rainy season and the harvest.
Bhangra music features the dhol and several other drums, a single stringed instrument called the ektara, a percussion instrument called the chimta (resembling tambourine cymbals on metal tongs), and earthen pots for more percussion sounds. The accompanying songs are small couplets in the Punjabi language called bolis. The subjects of the songs include the harvest, love, patriotism, and current social issues.
Bhangra dancers wear rich and colorful clothes. Men traditionally wear a lungi, a cloth wrapped around the waist. They wear kurthas, which are long shirts, topped with vests, and turbans. Women wear salwar kameez with a duppatta, a colorful length of cloth draped around the neck.
Performances of Bhangra take place at marriages, parties, and celebrations of any sort. The dance is also extremely popular on stage, and numerous Bhangra competitions are held every year.
Performed by women, the Giddha combines singing, dancing, and mimicry, to express themes of daily life. The participants form a circle and sing folk songs knows as Giddha songs. The singing is accompanied by clapping and sometimes a dholki (a small two headed drum). They also improvise small couplets, called bolis, about social realities, joys, and frustrations, which the dancers enact.
The dance sequences, in which all dancers participate, alternate with the bolis, for which a couple of dancers come inside the circle to perform the dance. The style of Giddha dance is simple, but it is vigorous, not unlike Bhangra. At the same time, the women’s movements, especially of the arms and hands, show grace and flexibility. The women wear traditional Punjabi dress, salwar kameez or lehnga skirts, with rich colors and decoration.