Mayurbhanj Chhua is a 300-year old martial arts dance form that originated in the Eastern region of India. Steeped in ancient folk and tribal tradition, it is a spectacular performance that is free, intense and yet lyrical. This dance from has rarely been staged in the United States.
The three styles of Chhua dance are named after the regions in Eastern India where they originate from: Mayurbhanj (Odisha), Seraikela (Jharkhand), and Purulia (West Bengal). Among these styles, Mayurbhanj is the only one that does not use a mask, and it uses a wider range of movements and expressions. Technically, this style differentiates itself from others in its adaptations of the characteristics of both folk and classical traditions.
When it originated in the tribal regions Mayurbhanj in the 18th century, it was primarily a martial art form. Under the royal patronage of the Maharaja of Mayurbhanj, it evolved dance form. Even as it transformed into high art, Chhau remained deeply connected to its cultural roots. Its vocabulary of movement includes mock combat techniques, stylized gaits of birds and animals, and movements modelled on the chores of village housewives. It draws inspiration from epics and local folklore. The music of Chhau is also influenced by the local folk tradition of Jhumar. Although, the accompanying melody is played on the reed pipes called mohuri and shehnai, the reverberating beats of a variety of percussions instruments – Dhol, Chadachadi, and Dhumsa – dominate the ensemble.