Bharatanatyam is one of the oldest and best known classical dance styles of the Indian Subcontinent. Formerly it was performed by temple dancers (Devadasis) during religious services in the temple. Only from the 18th century  the dance style from the States of Tamilnadu and Karnataka became known as Bharatanatyam. Bharatanatyam stands for: Bhava (emotion), Raga (melody), Tala (rhythm), Natya (dancing and acting).

Bharatanatyam is a body language which conveys to the audience the performer‘s emotions as well as those of the represented characters. The dance style is a synthesis of rhythmic dancing technique and acting. Typical are the graceful and dynamic body movements, the stylized hand gestures (Mudras) and the strong facial mimic. The traditional themes are often religious, but may also be of a wordly nature.

The Traditional Bharatanatyam Repertoire

Pushpanjali – opening dance, flower offering, welcome
Alaripu – introduction dance with typical body, head and eye movements in three different tempi
Jatiswaram – Dance with dynamic and gracious step combinations to the musical notes sa ri ga ma pa da ni
Shabdam – expressive dance telling episodes from Indian mythology
Padavarnam – highlight of the performance, demanding extreme technical dancing and acting skills; usually tells a love story or expresses a longing for God
Padam – expressive dance depicting typical female and male characters on a high level
Javali – a dance about unfulfilled love and longing with many pantomime and acting elements
Shloka – a short prayer to God in Sanskrit
Devaranama – hymns to God
Ashtapadi – songs from the famous Gitagovinda, expressing Radha’s love for Krishna, symbolizing the human longing for God
Tillana – vivacious abstract dance with typical sculptural poses, difficult step combinations and graceful body movements to complicated rhythms
Mangalam – closing ritual

Bharatanatyam dancers are accompanied by carnatic music ensembles.