Chhau is an ancient dance form. It originated in the mock fights of the Oriya paikas (warriors) who fought rhythmically to the accompaniment of indigenous music instruments.
The highly Stylised Chhau dance of today follow the basic principle of the Natya Shastra of Bharat Muni and the Abhinaya Darpana of Nandikeswara.
This dance form became closely associated with religion. The Chhau dancers worship Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, the two presiding deities of the Tandava and the Lasya styles respectively.
The typical Chhau dance pose when the dancer at rest is the bent knee so that the legs form a Square, the raising of the, right hand upward with the left hand handing downward both forming right angles the elbow.
The Chhau dancers have to practices difficult modes of walk-in, striking difficult postures and moving in a way peculiar to this style. It is a virile dance form and was in the past undertaken by male dancers who performed in female roles, as and when required.
Today there are also female dancers who have master this art. The face is generally covered with .the mask of the character who being depicted by the dancer in the Saraikala School of Chhau dance.
But in the Mayurbhanj school, the face is left uncovered: Emotions and passions are not depicted by facial expression but by intricate footwork, whirls and jumps. Hence, the wait the feet and the legs are used to depict bhavas.
The dance is usually performed in the open air on a raised platform, the musicians stand, on one side of the platform and play on big kettle drums and other musical instruments.
In villages, Chhau dance is usually performed during Chaitra parva festival in the days concluding the month of Chaitra. Popular story from the Ramavyna and Mahabharata are staged.
The costumes, the headgear and other ornamental requisites are carefully selected., The dance programme consists of solo, duet or Group, performances.