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Bharatanatyam Vs Kathak: Which Classical Indian Dance Do Men Perform?

16th Jun, 2022

India is a land of culture and heritage, and the best thing about our land is that we have tons of art forms where we have men equally participating. There is a common misconception among people that performers specifically of Indian classical dance have only female performers, but that is completely wrong.

Since ancient times we have seen that there have been tons of male dancers who have been phenomenal in the field and ensured that they could make a name for themselves.

In this respect, we must mention the name of all those dance forms which have men at the center. Bharatanatyam dance is one such classical dance form where there has been steady participation of the male dancers, and in most cases, they have been known to be quite exponential as well.

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Anyone who has been in the field will know that "Nataraj," who is worshiped as the dance idol, was a male himself.

Dances Which The Male Dancers Traditionally Perform

Although today we see different forms of classical dance that men perform, it is important to understand that traditionally not all of them have to be performed by men only. However, there are certainly a few forms that we will talk about in detail that have to be performed by professional male dancers, and originally, they were the proponents as well.

The good news is that if any of you are males who are reading this right now and want to learn classical dance form, then there are quite a few options. There are lots of classical dance classes for men, which gives them an environment to explore their potential and establish themselves as a dancer.

1. Odissi

The first dance form that we will talk about today, which has a lot of men performing traditionally, is Odissi. If you want to go through the performance of the Odissi dance form and understand the history, you will see that numerous men have created history and are known as the best Odissi dancers in the field to date.

If you see the temples of Orissa, the place where the original Odissi propounded, you will see that they have depicted a lot of male dancers.

The dance form originated to praise the excellence of Lord Jagannath, who is a male himself. Odissi male dancers need to focus more on their expressions, and they often adorn a lot of beautiful jewelry that looks stunning on them. The costume is usually a bright and colorful silk dhoti that looks stunning, and they club it with a jewel-studded belt.

Tala Taranga - Odissi on High

2. Kuchipudi

Another dance form that has seen a lot of male dancers since its inception in Kuchipudi. The Kuchipudi form of dance originated in the southern part of India, and since the beginning, you will find that there has been mention of a lot of male dancers in the history of the dance form as well.

Kuchipudi dancers usually have to mask themselves and paint their faces with a certain expression, which leads to the performance's look. The dancers have a lot of heavy costumes as well, and hence in most cases, they are better adorned by the men of the sector.

If you go through the Natya shastra, the oldest dance treatise, you will know that males led the dance base, and they even performed the same in front of kings as royal performances or even as an offering in the temples.

Kuchipudi dance performers who are male have slightly better exposure than females, and in most cases, you will notice that male Kuchipudi dancers are usually professional teachers.

A Glimpse of Kuchipudi Dance Performance

3. Indian Kathak Dance

Finally, another exceptionally accepted Indian dance form was originally performed by them. One of the most important dancers in the field has been the legendary Pandit Birju Maharaj, who was a proponent as well. You will most often notice that the gurus of each of the Kathak Gharana are also males, and they have immense knowledge.

Male Kathak dancers wear special costumes and tend to take up the ghungroo with grace. Indian Kathak dance is a field that gives equal opportunities to both male and female dancers, and if you, as a male dancer, practice hard, you will be able to garner good learning.


Finally, it is important to address here that male dancers have a lot of potential, and they have opportunities if enough attention is paid. There are a lot of scopes for those who want to train under professional classical dance classes and learn classical dances like Bharatanatyam dance and Kathak dance.

There has indeed been a pertinent backlash against men dancing, particularly in the classical genre; however, if you look at the Indian dance history, you will know that males have been a part of our history since the very inception of the dance form. If you do want to learn seriously, then join a professional dance academy that will ensure you learn the dance form in the right way.

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