Though Dusserah is the occasion of Sambalpuri folk dance Dalkhai, it’s the most popular folk-dance of Odisha, its performance is very common on all other festivals such as Bhaijiuntia, Phagun Puni, Nuakhai, etc. This is mostly danced by young women of Binjhal, Kuda, Mirdha, Sama and some other tribes of Sambalpur, Balangir, Sundargarh, Bargarh, Nuapada and Kalahandi districts. During this dance men join them as drummers and musicians. The dance is accompanied by a rich orchestra of folk music played by a number of instruments known as Dhol, Nisan, Tamki, Tasa and Mahuri.
At the beginning of the performance, the Dhulia (drummer) beats the Dhol (drums) and young girls stand in line and sing songs, which are called Dalkhai songs. The girls sing for a while and then start dancing by bending forward to half sitting position. Different movements of their hands, legs, knees, hips are given primary importance. During the dance the girls place a piece of Sonepuri Ganga Jamuna Gamuchha (cloth), of red or pink colour, on their shoulders. While dancing they move their hands forward and backward alternately. The dancers regulate their steps according to the sound of the dhol, i.e., sometimes slow and sometimes fast.
There are different forms of Dalkhai dance, like Dhadi Dalkhai (Row Dalkhai), Golei Dalkhai (Circle Dalkhai), Jodi Dalkhai (Duet Dalkhai) and Baithaki Dalkhai (Dalkhai in half sitting position). The Dalkhai dance may either be the professional type or the spontaneous type. Professional Dalkhai dancers have had urban influence but the spontaneous Dalkhai dancers preserve the true spirit of this art form.
The songs of the professional Dalkhai mainly deal with Shringara Rasa, or songs of love, like:
My youth blossoms like flower
I request my brother
And sister-in-law to
Fetch me a groom.