Folk Dances of Uttar Pradesh: Nautanki is considered to be the most popular dance of UP and is the means of entertainment for the masses. In this dance, the story in lyrical form is narrated by the actors on the stage, who also dance simultaneously. The story is often related to the contemporary social problems or national feelings. In fact, during pre-independence period, it was used for evoking nationalist sentiments of masses.
Like Nautanki, Raasleela dance is also quite popular. Raasleela is actually a Natya (Drama) belonging to the region of Braj in which the stories of Lord Krishna and his consort, Radha, are enacted. The dance is often performed by children who dress like milk maidens (Gopi) and perform on the basis of poems composed in Brajbhasha (A variant of Hindi spoken in the region of Braj). The enactment of Raas has an important place in the culture of Braj. The stage for performing Raas is very simple and without much adornment. On the stage, a small throne is kept for Radha and Krishna and place for seating the ‘Gopikas’. The front portion of the stage is used for dancing and around the stage, place is reserved for seating the musicians, singers and audiences. Before commencing Raas, the Raas troupe performs auspicious beginning by singing poems (Padas) composed by famous poets of Brajbhasha. After that, Aarti is performed and then Raas begins. Raas is charaterised mainly by singing and dancing.
Some other folk dances are also popular in UP viz. Chapeli, Thali dance, Judda and Jhenta dance, Manjari dance.
In Chapeli dance, the dancers describe the pleasant memories of the unification (Milan) and poignant moments of separation. There are no limitations on the number of dancers. The songs are usually love songs. The sensuousness and elation which is found in Chapeli dance is not available in other dance forms.
Kajri dance is also very popular in UP. With the onset of rainy season, the Kajri dance also arrives on the scene. Married daughters return to their parents from the house of in-laws to play on the swings. These swings are installed on the robust branches of the Neem tree and are swung high. When women sing mellifluously while playing on swings, the other set of women automatically start moving rhythmically along with the songs.