What makes a dance classical? There are eight Indian dance-styles which are classified as ‘classical’ because they all have their roots in the Natyashastra, a classical treatise on the arts believed to have been written in Sanskrit by Bharata Muni sometime between 200BC and 200AD. This text covers several aspects relating to drama, dance and music. It covers the facial expressions, hand gestures, head and eye movements, and some of the body positions and movements which are common to the classical dance styles.

Many of the classical dances were traditionally performed in temples as a sacred offering to the gods by resident dancers. Today classical dance is performed on stage, most often by solo dancers, though group compositions and innovations in dance choreography are also very popular. All classical dances have two distinctive elements: nritta or pure dance which is abstract dance movements, and the facial expressions (abhinaya) and hand gestures (hastas) of its expressive dance element, or nritya. It takes several years of rigorous training to learn and master any of these Indian classical dance traditions.

Read more on this article.