A fascinating folk dance of Sherdukpens – a small community of West Kameng District of Arunachal Pradesh, Bardo Chham depicts the victory of good over evil. The dance has an interesting background.
From the dawn of human civilization, man has always felt keenly the colours of pulsating life and enjoyed the rapture of life to the brim in the bosom of nature. From that inchoate stage of civilization, man has always contrived of different rhythemic dances to give outlet to their exuberance – while building the tempo for a hunting expedition for instance or while trying to propitiate the demoniac forces in nature. In the antiquity when primitive man dwelt in jungle, life was savage and they had to be always on the qui vive to counter the hostile animals who would prey on them.
It is very natural then that the dance forms conceived by early man were aggressive in nature and depicted either a hostile attitude or the gestures of defence and retreat. Gradually men came down to the plains and settled down. Thus, nomadic men became gregarious creatures. They built houses and learnt the art of cultivation. In this new and changed pattern of life, dance forms and styles also underwent a significant change. In the new social life and ambience, folk dance evolved as a natural process with its simplified, supple but emphatic form.
So, folk dance was very much the brainchild of civilized and gregarious human society. Some hold the opinion that ‘primitive dance’ and ‘folk dance’ are but the same category which is actually a gross delusion. Folk dance was evolved in a developed and civilized society by some more advanced class or groups of men. It was based on their ways and attitudes, beliefs and customs, rituals and prejudices and their spontaneous reactions to the sights and sounds of nature.
In the primitive society, dance was born for satisfying the needs of the early man. With the progress of civilization, man’s intellect and consciousness increased to a great extent. Conflicts increased in life and social relationships became more complicated. Consequently, all art forms assumed some distinctive characteristics. Dance became refined and plushy. Thus, primitive dance gave way to folk dance.
Folk dances do not quite reveal the utilitarian values of the primitive dances. But they do resemble the style of expressing different emotions. Some conspicuous utilitarian aspects of primitive dance underwent several changes and became symbolic. The impact of the primitive society and its conventions and rituals is very much felt in the several folk dances that have evolved in course of time. Folk dances become more to life and reflected the colours of life like never before. In a nut shell, it can be said that the joint effort put up by a coherent society to express the manifold hues of life find its best expression in folk dance. In course of time, several branches of folk dance were born on the grounds of regional differences and variety of form and culture.
Folk dance is the brainchild of an integral society which celebrated all social festivals with pomp. This dance form manifests the gaiety, exuberance and above all the creative zeal of our progenitors. Hence, this form of dance is often called “the collective creation of the folk.” Generally, folk dances do not quite reveal individual talent, grace or an isolated pose. Rather, there is least scope for any individual to show his/her prowess as a dancer in a folk dance. However, it is incorrect to say that individual expressions and feelings are totally ignored in folk dance. Individual awareness and ideas are adequately represented in the totality of the form and theme and in the group dance pattern.
Classical dance was conceived by a developed and refined human society. In reality, folk dance underwent several changes and got highly refined to give birth to classical dance form in course of time.
In the preface to the book “ Folk Dances of India,” an apt description is given about the differences between folk dance and classical dance. It says, “The differences between folk dancing and classical dancing, of which the former is the mainspring, is largely one of attitude. There is no deliberate attempt at artistry in the folk dance. The very existence of the dance is adequate justification for it, unless it be the pleasure of the dancers. No audience, in the usual sense of the term, is implied, and those who gather round to watch are as much a part of the collective self-expression as the dancers themselves. Moreover, the concept of the portraying emotion is generally speaking, foreign to the folk dance in as much as what is expressed is natural and original. What is important is not the grace of the individual dancer or virtuosity of the isolated pose, but the total effect of overwhelming buoyancy of spirit and the eloquent, effortless case with which it is expressed. It is clear, therefore, that here the question of a cleavage between the entertainer and the entertained does not arise as in the more sophisticated classical dance forms.”
When a creative artist becomes conscious of his art and its expression, it gives birth to a superior art form which is rich and refined in quality. When such consciousness is found in the sphere of dance, it transcends the limits of folk dance and transmogrifies into classical dance. Hence, individual process of the dancer gets more priority in classical dances. Conventional tastes and attitudes of a conscious mind are best reflected in the gestures, techniques and styles of classical dance forms. However, these classical dances have evolved on the basis of several aboriginal tribes, class or communities and on the folk dances prevailing in difficult in different regions. Again, it should be born in our minds that with the passage of time, some folk dances have also blossomed and burgeoned drawing nourishment from the classical dances. Folk dance is always imbued with a new life and vivacity.
Despite its transformation and development in a more civilized and advanced society, this dance form never lost its spontaneity and the central feeling of a community life. The following remark which was made about folk-music is also applicable about folk dance: “It is like a forest tree with its root deeply buried in the past which continually puts forth new branches, new leaves, new fruits.”
The genealogical study of all tribes and class from time immemorial, show that various forms of folk dances existed in their society and was very popular. It cannot be ascertained exactly when these dances had evolved and who were the original founders of these dance forms. Down the ages, man has inherited these dances have, for long, been the medium of man’s cultural improvement and have literally led to the origin of classical dances. However, the fullest manifestation of folk dance is not possible in the classical dance forms. Hence, the style, gestures and expressions of the classical dances have undergone radical change and assumed more refined and subtle forms.
A striking resemblance is found between the different folk dances that prevail in India. This trend is not only found in India but in several parts of the globe where the similarities between folk songs and folk dances are markedly conspicuous. On several occasions, such clans or communities living in different parts of the globe, have been found to have a common bond of kinship in the remote antiquity. Even if there was no kinship, the resemblances in folk dances of different clans are quite astonishing. Researchers say in this regard that under similar social and natural conditions in any given time, the human psyche thinks and acts in very similar ways. Hence, the various art forms like dance, music etc. devised by them are also akin to each other.
Folk Dances have their roots in religions beliefs and conventions, poetic fancies, belief of early man in supernatural forces and his desires, dreams and passions which he could not otherwise give outlet to. It is a candid fact that the human clans in different countries, gingerly make progress through several stages of evolution. Hence, folk dances often reflect the conventions and superstitions prevalent in the ancient ages. This is particularly conspicuous in the folk dances of many tribal communities.
Although folk dances show the vestiges of the hoary antiquity, they are not merely reflections of the by gone days. Contemporary life and society and the flow of pulsating life from the womb of history till date, enriched by human experience, have been transformed into scintillating folk dance forms. It is very unfortunate that due care has not been taken in our country for the resuscitation of folk dances except some sporadic incidents. Systematic research work and analytic study of folk dances have not been carried on in a wide scale. This should have been done extensively because folk dances do not depend for their existence, on memorabilias or items preserved in museums. They had expressed the hopes and aspirations of the society in the past and are also capable of building the foundations of a great future under proper care and assiduous practice.
Santidev Ghosh had an intimate affinity with Indian rural folk dance. He once remarked that among all the important Indian folk dances, the most popular and widely practiced one is the customary group dance form in several areas. Man always wishes to beautify himself. Similarly, the human society as a whole, wants to embellish itself by all possible means. If the society is beautiful, it maintains balance and integrity among the individuals who comprise it. It brings a harmonious rhythm and discipline in the social life. Man has to obey the law and abide by certain principles and decorum while living in a village, for instance for the sake of this rhythm and integrity. The roads in the village or for that matter the houses have to be arranged in such a systematic way that it looks organized, disciplined and tidy instead of giving an amorphous, unkempt and haphazard look. Everything should look balanced and coherent.
Creative art forms viz., song, dance and music are the ideal mediums which boost unite and integrate a society. Naturally social dances serve this purpose in a unique way. This is the primary motto of the social dances. In the Indian villages, social dances have always been an integral part of rural life and contributed immensely for all round social welfare.
However, things changed fast after the advent of the British. In the new social, economic and cultural setting during the British regime the popularity of folk dances gradually diminished and went to the verge of extinction. This is mainly because the new awareness and culture in the nineteenth century was very much influenced by European culture and civilization. It was totally alien to the set up of the rural life – rural culture, education, beliefs, customs etc. The villages were not focused to the new accidental culture and refinement because these were mainly for the urbanites and enlightened the cities. Consequently, all cultural ties between the urban and rural lives got truncated.The robust elegance, spontaneous outbursts, innocence and vivacity of Indian folk dance is based on agricultural rural life. The lack of proper vibes with the city stemmed the further growth of rural creativity and particularly the folk dance forms.
In the city, a fake attempt is made to resuscitate folk dances and the dances performed there are but distorted forms of original folk dances. Here, the fundamental characteristics of folk dance are overlooked. Regional differences and distinctive features are also not taken into account. Rather, they have been reformed according to the tastes of the modern psyche and the gestures, style and mood have also changed accordingly. Hence, folk dance in the city is mechanical, spurious and devoid of spontaneity. On several occasions, folk dances have been presented in the films, and theatres as mere forms of entertainment which cross the limits of decency and border or perversion. The endeavour to revitalize folk music have never followed any scientific and logical method which have made the modern ‘city-bred’ folk dances look spurious and ludicrous. The attempt to modernize folk dances and conceive fictitious dance patterns to bring ‘freshness’ and ‘variety,’ has spoiled the essence and spontaneity of folk dances, which is indeed pathetic.
It should be borne in our minds at the very outset that a mere study of the facts is net enough for rejuvenating folk culture or folk dance. Before an extensive research work on folk dance of a particular area, it is necessary for one to comprehend thoroughly the social lives of different clans or tribal communities of that place. It is absolutely necessary to analyse critically their conventions, customs, prejudices beliefs and the umpteen social and religious festival which they observe. Otherwise, it is very difficult to discern the pure, untainted and original form of a folk dance.
In order to preserve our rich cultural heritage play the pivotal role in national integration and build up harmony among the people. In the new age, the vital role of folk dances must be reviewed and given their due recognition. 90% of the nation’s population live in villages. This leviathan power should be properly utilized for constructive purposes utilized for constructive purposes – to build the nation and other creative works. In a nut shell, it can be said folk dances should be resteemed and resuscitated not only to rediscover and assess the old values and traditions but also to construct the future of the nation and usher more promises.
Source from RajasthanTravelsGuide.Com