Dance is a unique art of expression. Be it celebration, remorse, anger, love or pain, dance moves can clearly define every expression. Talking about the Lathi dance of West Bengal, performed on Muharram, it confines within itself the feeling of remorse and anger, associated with this Muslim festival. During the first ten days of Muharram, the Lathi players display their art at several places, like road and country yards.
The final performance of the Lathi dance is done at the Karbala ground, with 6-8 feet long bamboo stick, angled with metal tip, which is used like a sword during the performance. The dance is basically performed by a group of youths. The zeal is maintained by the sound of drums and brass cymbals. It is more like a sporty event, rather than a dance, mainly because it is more demonstration of valor, than being an art.
Lathi dance is divided into several sections – introduction, different warlike positions, battle, decree and rest. The tempo, which begins on slower note, gains fervor with time and finally goes to extreme at the climax. In the entire performance, the dancers skillfully spin their sticks, moving them to the front or sides. They also move these sticks under their legs or over their heads, along with the music. They create a warlike atmosphere with this performance.
Lathi dance becomes prominent during Muharram in the Indian state of West Bengal. It stretches for over ten days exhibiting various expressions such as remorse, anger, pain and love through its several sections.
During the first ten days of Muharram, the Lathi players demonstrate their art in the courtyards of houses, at cross sections of roads and finally at the mock Karbala ground.
Style of Lathi Dance
The Lathi used in Lathi dance is basically a 6 to 8 foot long bamboo stick sometimes tipped with a metal blunt and it is used like a sword by swinging it back and forth like a sword.
Besides Lathi, various other props are also used in this dance form. The dancers use drums and brass cymbals to maintain the rhythm and tempo of the dance. Sometimes, they also hold bamboo sticks, which are about four or five feet long. Along with it, they carry swords, daggers and cymbals.
The role of the drummer is very important in this dance performance, as he guides the moves, tempo and rhythm of the dancers. The dance is actually divided into several sections like an introduction, different war-like stances, the fight, resolution and rest.
With sticks and big swords in their hands, the dancers demonstrate their valour by way of a mock battle. The dancers skilfully whirl their sticks, moving them to the front or to the sides, then under their legs or over their heads in time to the music. The fierce clashes of the sticks produce a feel of battle scene. The tempo of the dance begins on a slower note and with time it reaches its crescendo. The performers with their various movements, steps and actions create a war-like atmosphere.
Lathi dance is generally performed by a group of youths and can see the enthusiasm in their looks which is duly maintained. The way they balance their expressions and rhythm with the sound of drums clearly gives an impression of it being like a sport event.
Costumes of Lathi Dance
Lathi dancers usually wear close-fitting garments while performing this dance. These kinds of outfits help to enact the movements and actions more clearly and freely. Sometimes, they also tie strings of bells round their ankles.