is a land with varied, rich and vibrant dance traditions. The art of
natya, or dance drama, was so important in ancient India that
the Natya Shastra
(Science of Dramaturgy) was referred to as the fifth Veda, a means
for the illiterate majority to be educated in the scriptures,
philosophy, mythology, science, craft, yoga and the ways of human
nature. Today in India one can find seven major classical dance
forms, several dance-drama forms and numerous regional folk dance
these forms, Bharatanatyam is the most widely known within India and
abroad. It is the classical dance style native the state of Tamil
Nadu in South India. Like other Indian classical forms, it exhibits
three main components: nritta, or pure dance technique,
featuring rhythmic footwork patterns and beautiful abstract
movements of the body, nritya, expressional dance, featuring a vocabulary of hand gestures
and facial expressions used to mime the words of the song and natya,
dramatization of mythological stories.
The pure dance technique of Bharatanatyam is marked by
symmetrical lines of the body, exuberant leaps and bends contrasting
with subtle neck and eye movements, and crisp, intricate footwork.
The lyrical content of the songs used for the expressional dance of
Bharatanatyam is primarily devotional or mythological. Its purpose
is not merely to entertain but to inspire, uplift, transform, and
ultimately to carry both the dancer and viewer closer to knowledge
of the Divine.
ancient roots more than 2000 years old, Bharatanatyam evolved over
the centuries taking its present form some 250 years ago. It was
traditionally a solo dance form performed by women within the temple
precincts as part of the daily worship ritual. In the 20th century,
Bharatanatyam emerged from the temple to take its place as one of
India's premier theater art forms. Despite its secular setting, the
devotional lyrics of this dance form ensure its deep spiritual
connection to Hindu tradition. Today, Bharatanatyam is learned and
performed by men and women of all classes in India and abroad.