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Dances of Andhra Pradesh

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Dances of Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh has a rich culture and people here are very fond of art and literature. Both men and women perform classical dances in Andhra Pradesh and children start learning traditional performing art forms right from a very young age. Dance forms prevalent in the state include dances such as Kolattam, Bhagotam, Burrakatha, Kuchipudi, Bhamakalapam, Butta Bommalu, Dappu, Perini and Tappeta Gullu etc.

Folk Dances in Andhra Pradesh


                                                                   
Dhimsa

There are special folk dances which bring happiness and joy to all festivals and family ceremonies. Folk dances are always performed in a group during festivities and enjoyment. Villagers sing and dance together on the beat of traditional musical instruments and enjoy moments of harmony and togetherness. There are some very famous folk dances of Andhra Pradesh which include gobbi dance, dandaria dance, veeranatyam, butta bommalu, dhimsa, bonalu, dappu, dhamal dance, mathuri dance and bathakamma.

Well, dappu is a traditional drum made of goat-skin and is struck with sticks for creating rhythm. You can see dappu dancers right in the front of any procession - jatras, marriage, festivals etc. The colourful costumes look beautiful with mythological themes used during dance and music.

Various Dances Prevalent in Andhra Pradesh

Let us learn more about these dance forms and how these are performed by the talented dancers in Andhra Pradesh who have worked hard to keep the traditional art alive even today!

Kuchipudi Dance

Dances of Andhra Pradesh

The kuchipudi dance from has its origins in Andhra Pradesh. The dance form comprises of dance along with fine gestures, song and speech. You need to be conversant with acting, singing, language and theoretical knowledge for performing this dance well. Kuchipudi dance form actually originated during Bhakti movement and was started by Siddhendra Yogi in the 17th century. The dance has its origins in a village named 'Kuchipudi' in Andhra Pradesh. This dance form resembles Bharatnatyam a lot.

Legends in kuchipudi dance include names like Lakshmi Narayan Shashtri, Chinta Krishna  Murti, Vedantam Chinna Satyam etc. Chinta Krishna  Murti was really good in doing roles like Satyabhama in Bhamakalapam. Today, kuchipudi is not only performed solo but also performed along with beautiful choreography.

Lambadi


                                                                      
Lambadi

This can be called as the dance of the nomads! Lambadi tribe in Andhra Pradesh performs this dance form to celebrate sowing season and a good harvest. They wear beautiful costumes which are decorated with beads, and embroidery and deck up well with jewellery, bangles and anklets. The nomads or banjaras perform this dance in a group of 15-20 dancers during festivals.

Bonalu Dance

Dances of Andhra Pradesh

This is a dance which needs you to do a balancing act! Well, the dancers balance pots on their heads and this makes it quite a unique dance. It is performed in praise of Goddess Mahakali. First the male dancers perform Potharajus dance in the temple lashing whips and neem leaves. This is followed by bonalu dance performed by the females.

Bonalu is also a state festival in Telangana. Bonalu literally means 'pots'. The balancing of pots is done on rhythmic beats and songs sung in praise of Goddess Mahakali. 

Butta Bommalu

                                                                          
Butta

This is a folk dance which is very famous in Tanuku region of West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh. Butta bommalu actually means 'basket toys'. These toys are made of cow dung, wood husk and dry grass. The dancers wear various kinds of masks. However, the dance is performed only on beats of percussion instruments.

The masks worn during this dance portray diverse characters. They tend to increase entertainment value and yes, there are delicate movements but non-verbal music in this dance!

Bhamakalpam and Gollkalpam

This dance is an amalgamation of dance and drama --- both! It is believed to have been originated from Kuchipudi dance. The movements in this dance are delicate and feminine. Gollkalpam dance and bhamakalpam dance were both inspired and started by Sidhendra Yogi in 17th century. The idea was to refrain prostitutes from learning this dance form. So, males were chosen from Brahmin community and trained in the dance. Gestures and expressions give this dance form special meaning.

In Gollkalpam, the plot is basically philosophical - how God protects dharma on earth depicted in the form of dance-drama.    

Kalapam

Dances of Andhra Pradesh

This is also a dance-drama with a moral for the audience. It is a mono-play in which there is a main person and another comparatively less significant person. Every character enters the stage introducing himself and the 'sutredhaar' (narrator) imparts the running commentary on various sequences in the play. The main character narrates his experiences and the other person asks questions and makes comments.

Veeranatyam

Dances of Andhra Pradesh

This is an ancient dance form of Andhra Pradesh and holds much religious significance. It is also popular as Veerangam or Veerabhadra Nrityam. Veer means 'brave' and this is a dance of the brave and also finds mention in Hindu mythology.

According to a legend, when in a function, Sati (Shiva's wife) was humiliated, Shiva picked out a relic from his hair or 'jatajuta' and began performing a vigorous dance --- a dance of Pralayam or destruction which could bring holocaust.

This dance is performed with musical instruments sucuh as tambura, dolu, tasha, soolam. It is very popular in Draksharamam (Dakshavatika) --- birth place of Veerbhadra, in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.

The dancers carry a plate from palms to the elbows with camphor fire. The dance goes on till the fire is extinguished. There is also the 'Khadgalu recital' (brandishing a long sword), holding of a long pole marked with vibhuti (sacred ash) and bells on top and dancing with spears and tridents pierced into tongue, hands and ankle! All this dancing takes place on the beat of war-drum or veeranam. This dance is performed at Shiva temples all over the state by Veerbhadra community --- followers of Veerbhadra. 

Dhimsa dance

                                                             
Dhimsa


About 15-20 women perform this dance. They form a chain and dance to the beats of drums. They wear traditional jewellery, costume and enjoy while singing and dancing in a group. This dance is common in Araku valley of Visakhapatnam district.

Dhimsa dance is performed by tribes such as Bagata, Khond, Kotia, Valmiki tribes inhabiting Araku valley. Do you know that there is also a magazine in Telugu named 'Dhimsa'! This dance is performed by old and young, men and women. During festivals, dancers from one village visit another village and join the dance. The joy is doubled with community feast in the evening! Such dances are also referred to as 'Sankidi Kelbar' as it aids in creating a bond of friendship and brotherhood among people belonging to different villages. How beautiful! Percussion instruments used in this dance form include mori, tudumu, dappu, kiridi, jodukommulu.

There are many variations of Dhimsa dance which include Boda dhimsa, Gunderi dhimsa (or Usku dhimsa), Goddi beta dhimsa, Potar-tola dhimsa, Bhag dhimsa, Natikari dhimsa etc.

Tappeta

This dance form is specially popular in Srikakulam district and Vizianagaram district. It is a devotional dance form meant for invoking the Rain God. The rhythm, vivaciousness and energy of this dance can enthuse anyone to start tapping to the beat of music and drums! About 15-20 dancers perform tappeta dance in a group. A few acrobatic movements during the dance can enthrall everyone present!

Gobbi Dance

This is a dance popular in coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh. It is performed during Sankranti festival when houses are cleaned and court yards decorated with 'rangavallis'. At the centre of these rangavallis, cow dung balls or gobbillu are placed and worshipped with flowers, turmeric and kumkum. In the evening, young girls dance around this gobbillu, all decked up for the festival.

Bathakamma

Dances of Andhra Pradesh

Bathakamma festival is a state festival of Telangana. The bathakamma dance of performed during Bathakamma festivities in Andhra Pradesh. Women perform this dance and worship Goddess Bathakamma's idol before immersing it in the river after a month long celebration. The Bathakamma festival is especially important for married women who pray for peace in their family and a happy married life.

According to a legend, Saijanbai, the beautiful daughter of a Rajput king, was married with great pomp and show. However, she was sent back by her in-laws to her father's house as she was unable to perform her household duties properly. However, she worshiped Goddess Bathakamma and later led a successful and happy married life.          

Other Dance Forms of Andhra Pradesh

  • Vilasini Natyam is not practiced much now and was a dance form of the devadasis. Many believe that this dance form must receive Indian Classical dance status.

  • The jangams - Shiva worshippers used to wander and exhibit 'jangam katha' which today is known as Burrakatha and is a sort of theatre dance. Burra means tambura, a musical instrument, which the main performer plays while narrating a story. He plays music and dances simultaneously. Others in the group play drums and enrich the story by saying short sentences in between.

  • Tholu Bommalata is a dance of puppets! Different episodes from epics are told in a lucid language for everyone to understand. These are very large puppets and not only serve as a medium of recreation, but also education. For instance, there are Hanuman and Sita puppets in Tholu Bommalata tradition of Andhra Pradesh which relate various incidents from Ramayana.

  • Tappeta Gullu is a dance form performed to appease the rain God. It is specially popular in Srikakulam district and Vizianagaram district. The drums hang around the necks of all dancers who dance with vigour and enthusiasm.

  • Dhamal dance is performed by Siddis and is a martial dance form in which swords and shields are used while performing the dance. It is performed during marriage functions. Siddis are originally believed to be from Africa who were brought by Hindu kings to Andhra Pradesh during middle of 12th century as slaves. They guarded the palaces of the kings or became sailors, soldiers and personal body guards.

  • Kommu Koya is another dance form of Andhra Pradesh. The Kommu Koya troupes have helped to keep the age old traditional dance alive even today. Through their dance, they spread awareness about various social issues such as female foeticide, child marriages, AIDS  and other social evils.  

Stick Dances of Andhra Pradesh

Dandaria Dance

Dandaria dance is a stick dance which is performed by Gond tribe in Northern region of Hyderabad district. The dancers visit different villages where they receive a warm welcome. The guests and hosts dance in anti-clockwise direction and dance to the beat of drums and trumpet and yes, sticks held in their hands.

Only men perform this dance form and women characters are also performed by young men dressed as women! The group of dancers is led by musicians. According to a legend, Dandaria - descendant of Pandava prince started this dance form. Actually, Gonds believe themselves to be the descendants of Pandavas.

Mathuri Dance

This is a tribal dance performed by Mathuri tribe. They perform this dance during rainy month (Shravana) and men and women both participate in this dance. Women form the inner circle while men form the outer circle while dancing and singing in unison. Men strike the sticks and women clap on the beats of drums. It is similar to Ras lila of Uttar Pradesh. Mathuri tribe is originally from Mathura who settled here and so their dance is popular as 'Mathuri dance'. 

Kolatam

Kolatam is yet another form of stick dance very popular in Andhra Pradesh. It is also known as Kolannalu or Kolkolannalu dance. It is performed during festivals and comprises of music, dance and song recital. The dancers are in the age group of 8 years to 40 years who make up pairs and dance in circles with sticks providing the main rhythm.This dance is quite similar to 'Dandiya dance' of Gujarat and Garbha dance of Rajasthan. In Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh, Kolatam is popular as Kolanna.

On your visit to Andhra Pradesh state, do become a part of one of these dance groups and enjoy a few moments of relaxation and fun!
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