International Dance Day is celebrated every year on April 29 to promote the art of dance and raise awareness about its importance in the world of arts and culture. Dance is an integral part of Indian culture and is celebrated enthusiastically throughout the country. India is home to diverse dance forms, each with its unique style and charm. That being said, here is a look at some of the must-attend dance festivals in India.
Bamnia Chhau Dance Festival, West Bengal
Purulia district in West Bengal is home to one of the sub-genres of the Chhau folk dance (the other two being Seraikela of Jharkhand and Mayurbhanj of Odisha). A form of dance-drama in style, executed through energetic dancing and martial arts like movements, it is also noted for the use of handcrafted, colourful masks by the dancers. While Chhau dance programmes are common during the Chaitra Parab festival held in the Chhota Nagpur belt of Eastern India, you can attend the dance festival held in the Bamnia village in Purulia (about six hours drive from Kolkata). You can also visit the Charida village, located nearby, to see the mask artists at work.
Khajuraho Dance Festival, Madhya Pradesh
One of the earliest dance festivals to be promoted by any tourism body, the Khajuraho Dance Festival is now a great crowd puller. You have to book accommodation months ahead for the festival usually held in February. Exponents of the various Indian dance forms perform here with the exquisitely carved temples serving as a background. Khajuraho is connected to Agra, Varanasi, etc., by air and through Satna and Jhansi by train with the rest of the country.
Konark Dance Festival, Odisha
There are two dance festivals held in Konark, Odisha. The year&rsquos first festival is held from February 19-23, organised by the Konark Natya Mandap. The second festival, organised by the state tourism department, is held from December 1-5. Both classical and folk dancers from all over India participate in these festivals. A great opportunity to see Odisha&rsquos own dance forms, viz., odissi, gotipua and Mayurbhanj chhau. Konark is known for its 13th century Sun Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is 65km away from Bhubaneshwar (nearest airport) and about 35km from Puri (via the Marine Drive).
Mamallapuram Dance Festival, Tamil Nadu
Mamallapuram, a beach town, at a distance of 60km from Chennai, is known for its 8th century shore temples. In December-January, a dance festival is held here where notable exponents of the various Indian dance forms&ndashbharatanatyam, kathak, kuchipudi, etc.&ndashperform. The richly sculpted temples form a fitting backdrop to the event.
Mukteshwar Dance Festival, Odisha
Located in Bhubaneswar, the 10th century temple, is the venue of the annual odissi dance festival organised by the state tourism and cultural departments. Usually, the festival is held in the middle of January. Bhubaneswar is connected to the major cities of India by air and rail. It can be the base for visiting some of Odisha&rsquos biggest attractions, viz. Puri, Konark and Chilika Lake.
Natyanjali Festival, Tamil Nadu
The five-day dance festival is held in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu. Organised in honour of the presiding deity, Lord Nataraja (Shiva in his dancing avatar), it begins on the Maha Shivaratri day with the more than a thousand year old temple as the background. The 108 poses of the Bharatanatyam is carved on the temple&rsquos eastern gateway. Chidambaram is about 220km away from Chennai.
Nishagandhi Dance Festival, Kerala
The dance festival is held in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, usually towards the end of January. Classical dancers from all over India participate in this festival. Musical concerts are also organised. In 2015, a Kathakali fest and a food festival were added attractions.
Sirpur Music and Dance Festival, Chhattisgarh
One of the youngest performing arts festival of the country, the festival is held at the temple town of Sirpur in Chhattisgarh. Organised adjacent to the 7th century Laksman Temple, the festival consists of dance performances, and vocal and instrumental music. It is usually held in January. Sirpur is situated 78km from Raipur.