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