From kathkali to salsa, a dance form is an expression of a country’s culture and heritage. Let’s take a look at some unique dance traditions from across the globe.

BALLET: Said to have originated during the 15th century's Italian Renaissance, it later developed into a concert dance form in Russia and France. Did you know that one ballet performance can take over 5,000 hours of practice, and that ballerinas are as strong as football players? The most widely recognised or most famous ballet is Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker.

KABUKI: A classical form of dance-drama, it is one of Japan's important traditional arts. It is said to to have originated in the early Edo period, when founder Izumo no Okuni formed a female dance troupe that performed dances and light sketches in Kyoto. However, it developed into its present, all-male theatrical form after women were banned from performing in kabuki theatre in 1629. In 2005, UNESCO declared kabuki theatre as an intangible heritage.

THE FLAMENCO: An art-form based on southern Spain's various folkloric music traditions, in 2010, it was declared by UNESCO as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Palmas, or rhythmic hand-clapping, is an important aspect of the art-form, and is of two types - Palmas Abiertas and Palmas Sordas, which use different parts of the hand to produce different sounds.

KATHAKALI: A story-play genre of art which originated in Kerala, India, it stands out due to its elaborate, colourful make-up, costumes and face masks that the performers don. Its traditional themes include legends, spiritual ideas from the Hindu Puranas and epics, and folk stories. Several aspects and elements of the art-form are said to have been taken from ancient Hindu texts including Bharata Muni's Natya Shastra.

BALINESE DANCE: Extremely expressive and dynamic, it is an ancient dance tradition that is part of the religious and artistic expression among the Balinese people of Bali Island. It incorporates ancient Hindu traditions, combined with drama, that narrate stories through music and dance. Various types include the Ramayana Ballet, the Legong dance, the Barong Dance, among others.

TINIKUNG: A traditional Philippines dance, it is said to have originated in in Leyte, an island, during the Spanish colonial era. It derives its name from the tikling birds, whose speed and graceful movements the dance imitates. It imitates the birds' movements as they walk between grass stems, dodge bamboo traps set by farmers, and run over tree branches.

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What culture is mermaids in japan?

Tales of mermaids are firmly entrenched in cultural mythologies of many regions and can be found in medieval  art and contemporary popular literature the world over.

In Japan, elements of belief and myth linked to the natural world have endured from prehistoric times as an important part of culture and tradition. But the mermaid, as imagined in the western psyche, does not appear in these accounts. In Japanese folklore, there is a human-fish creature with the mouth of a monkey called a ningyo (the word in Japanese is composed of the characters for "person" and "fish") that lives in the sea. An old Japanese belief was that eating the flesh of a ningyo could grant immortality.

Accounts of mermaid appearances, though, are rare in folktales, and the creatures, rather than being objects of mesmerising beauty are described as "hideous" portents of war or calamity.

Mermaids in Japan today are no longer tiny clawed creatures with the torso of a monkey and the tail of fish. It would seem that the mermaid, as known in the west, infiltrated Japan at the start of the early 20th Century. This coincided with an influx of American culture from army bases at the start of World War I, as well as the publication of the first Japanese translation of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid".

Writers and illustrators, such as Tanizaki Jun'ichiro in Ningyo no nageki, “The Mermaid's Lament, 1917, began to feature this creature in their work. This led to the grotesque image of the ningyo being superseded or merged with a clearly feminine mermaid known as Mameido, in popular culture.

This new mermaid now appears to have new tales that attract tourists to the southernmost islands of Japan. The bronze statue of a mermaid, sitting forlomly on a rock on Okinawa's Moon Beach, is supposed to represent local legends of beautiful mermaids rescuing people from the depths of a menacing sea. A far cry from the ghoulish image of the ningyo, the half-human fish with a monkey's mouth.

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What is Burra Katha tradition in Andhra Pradesh?

Though it had been around for years. Burra Katha gained unprecedented prominence during the early 20th Century Because this oral storytelling folk art form got an absolutely new lease of life-from its mostly religious and mythological focus till then, in the 1930s it became a powerful tool during the Indian freedom movement for spreading the message of colonial oppression. Traditionally performed by a three-people team-one lead performer and two others who beat a drum called dinki. Burra Katha was popular in rural areas of not just Andhra Pradesh (including what is now Telangana) but also of Kamataka. Some of the artists still active today have performed this art form for decades, and feel it is losing its sheen because today it does not have many takers, especially among the youth-neither as performers nor as viewers. The theatre form is striving to stay afloat by re-inventing itself in many ways-such as having a troupe of more than three members, not confining to just religious and mythological themes but taking up opportunities to spread message on contemporary issues, etc.

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What is Kerala Theyyam?

A research article suggests folk theatre forms such as Tamil Nadu's thenukoothu, and theyyam and yakshagana of neighbouring States all had a common point of origin before branching out to become what they are today. This seems fairly accurate if something even as basic as the make-up and costume are anything to go by- they are elaborate. But since they branched out, the performances have their differences too. Theyyam is a form of ritualistic open theatre usually performed in front of a shrine. While the history, culture, and themes surrounding this theatre can fill pages of several books. what is incredible about theyyam is how it changes the caste equation, albeit temporarily in a theyyam performance, the artiste becomes a deity, and these performers have invariably belonged to the Scheduled Caste. But so long as the performance lasts. the performer-the deity"-is revered while everyone else, irrespective of their caste, is reduced to just a mass of collective reverence. And wordlessly if momentarily, the ritual dissolves the caste system.

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What is Yakshagana tradition?

A dance-drama performance said to have originated in the coastal regions of Karnataka, Yakshagana translates to celestial (yaksha) music (gana). With episodes from epics brought to life in villages and around paddy fields, this has traditionally been a night-long performance that brings together music, song, dance, and complex costumes. Said to have been around for centuries, Yakshagana was always performed by men, including for female characters. However, women are part of the troupe these days. It is believed that yakshagana does not normally have any set script and that the rich scholarly narrative is the visible evidence of the artist's spontaneity. As with many other such folk theatre forms, this one is experimenting too. And if media reports are any indication, it seems to have the comforting patronage of even the younger generation today.

Yakshagana is slowly but steadily gaining popularity outside India. Amateur groups have successfully staged performances in the USA and Canada.  The performances are usually held during the months of November and May.

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