A Taste of India - Dance

Photography and dance have one important thing in common: both are universally accepted forms of communication through visuals. To make the scenario even more interesting, one tries to capture the other. Photographing dance can be a tricky business. For one, the general settings for a click may not be to the photographer’s comfort. The photographer must work with the surroundings as best as he or she can. Apart from this there is also the task of capturing the emotions conveyed in the dance, a moving art, to a still image. Even with all this, the process as well as the result is very interesting.

Here in India, there are many dance forms to choose to photograph. Each region boasts of its unique form of dance, folk as well as classical, performed for various reasons and having different meanings.


Photo courtesy of Savitha Sastry

Indian classical dances tell stories. The whole performance is a combination of gestures and moves to act out a tale which is usually associated with Hindu mythology. It is also a great example of the importance given to form in a performance. At any given point, a dancer will maintain the right balance of form and poise. Such dances, usually depicting a story relating to mythology, are perfect to show dance in a single pose.


Photo courtesy of Dey Alexander

Folk dances usually relate to the rural portions of the country. They may express days of religious or seasonal importance, or may be a take on day-to-day life. These are usually performed in groups, and most of them are pretty high intensity. The energy level of the dancers is always on the high, as must be that of the photographer! But with a high iso speed and a fast lens, great shots can be taken.



Photo courtesy of Kiran Kumar

Contemporary dance in India covers a wide range of styles. In the bigger sense, anything from Bollwood dance to variations on the classical style would fall in this category. However, for a more precise definition, it would include Indian ballet and freestyle dance. Here, the dramatic aspect of the performance is often intensified using props like sound, and more relevantly, light. The mood of the scene is often depicted using lights, which also helps when one wants to capture this mood. Photographers, however, must be prepared to encounter varying stage settings by changing values of the camera constantly.


Photo courtesy of Tees Maar Khan

If any of you are familiar with the Indian film industry, called Bollywood by us, you would agree that one of the most prominent characteristics is the emergence of lavish dance sequences in the movies. Whether significant to the plot or not, we Indians certainly do not tire of the song-and-dance that accompanies the cinema we watch. These dances are can be a mixture of classical, folk and contemporary. These moves are often performed in real life. There is also often a hierarchy of dancers, with the leads (easily distinguished by costume) and a large group of back-ups. Here the opportunity of obtaining different layers in photographs presents itself. One can make different compositions of foreground and background, each time presenting a new point of view simply by focus.