In India, Classical dance is broad term used to refer to a group of dance form which can trace their origin to the Natya Shastra, the ancient text for theatre and drama. Classical dance forms are well developed in terms of their technique, grammar and execution and are formally taught or learnt through the Guru-Shishya tradition through centuries. Classical Dance almost takes the form of enlightenment. Classical Indian dance is based on the Natya Shastra written by Bharata Muni. Classical dance is a dance that is highly stylized, intended for performance and usually developed and evolved over a long period of time, often from what we today would call folk dances. Generally, it is understood that classical dance is developed in the high society circles, like royal courts and temple complexes. Classical dance training is rigorous and demanding. It is usually stricter with a lot of technical, spatial, rhythmic, lyrical, literary and emotional aspects involved. Classical dances are performed by professionals or highly trained dancers who have studied their form (usually) for many years. Classical dances are more about grace, stamina, abhinaya and composure. They are primarily meant for solo performances but groups also perform it with equal ease. Today there are eight classical Dances in India, Bharatnatyam of Tamil Nadu, Mohiniattam of Kerala, Kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh, Manipuri of Northeast India, Odissi from Odishsa, Kathak from North India, Sattriya form Assam and Kathakali from Kerala.
Folk dance is the kind of dance that is developed by the people reflecting their lives, often to the local music. Folk dancing is a simple dance form meant for group performances created for a recreational or celebratory reason such as agricultural harvest, weddings etc. Folk dances are common people’s dances. The dancers are not trained and the steps are just picked up as they mirror the region, lifestyle and aspirations of the local people. They are performed for pure enjoyment and do not require many years of serious training or technicalities. Folk dancing is for enjoying and free formed. It usually has a story line to the dance which is mostly folklore and not mythological. It has fun and pun elements embedded in it can be very witty exploiting stories of seasons and relationships between people. Folk dances are based on traditions where the people who dance are not “professional” dancers. The Folk dances of India are all about energy, enthusiasm and gaiety. There are more than 30 folk dances in India. Some of the most famous folk dances of India are Kalbelia, Rouff, Chari, Ghoomer, Fire, Kacchi Gori Dance, Garba , Bihu, Lavani, Dandiya and Bhangra and each of these are great entertainers.