Bharat­natyam Dance

A TO Z INDIA - - Inside -

Bharat­natyam Dance is con­sid­ered to be over 2000 years old. Sev­eral texts begin­ning with Bharata Muni's Natya Shas­tra (200 B.C.E. to 200 C.E.) pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on this dance form. The Ab­hi­naya Darpana by Nandikesvara is one of the main sources of tex­tual ma­te­rial, for the study of the tech­nique and gram­mar of body move­ment in Bharat­natyam Dance. There is also a great deal of vis­ual ev­i­dence of this dance form in paint­ings and stone and metal sculp­tures of an­cient times. On the gop­u­rams of the Chi­dambaram tem­ple, one can see a se­ries of Bharat­natyam poses, frozen in stone as it were, by the sculp­tor. In many other tem­ples, the charis and karanas of the dance are rep­re­sented in sculp­ture and one can make a study of the dance form.

Bharat­natyam dance is known to be eka­harya, where one dancer takes on many roles in a sin­gle per­for­mance. In the early 19th cen­tury, the fa­mous Tan­jore Quar­tette, un­der the pa­tron­age of Raja Ser­foji are said to have been re­spon­si­ble for the reper­toire of Bharat­natyam dance as we see it to­day.

The style was kept alive by the de­vada­sis, who were young girls ‘gifted’ by their par­ents to the tem­ples and who were mar­ried to the gods. The de­vada­sis­per­formed mu­sic and dance as of­fer­ings to the deities, in the tem­ple court­yards. Some of the renowned per­form­ers and gu­rus of the early part of the cen­tury be­long to the de­vadasi fam­i­lies, a well­known name is Bala Saraswati.

The reper­toire of Bharat­natyam is ex­ten­sive, how­ever, a per­for­mance fol­lows a reg­u­lar pat­tern. At first there is an in­vo­ca­tion song. The first dance item is the alar­ippu, lit­er­ally mean­ing - to adorn with flow­ers. It is an ab­stract piece com­bin­ing pure dance with the recita­tion of sound syl­la­bles.

The next item, the jatiswaram is a short pure dance piece per­formed to the ac­com­pa­ni­ment of mu­si­cal notes of any raga of Car­natic mu­sic. Jatiswaram has no sahitya or words, but is com­posed of adavus which are pure dance se­quences - nritta. They form the ba­sis of train­ing in Bharat­natyam dance.

As a solo dance, Bharat­natyam leans heav­ily on the ab­hi­naya or mime as­pect of dance - the nritya, where the dancer ex­presses the sahitya through move­ment and mime. Shab­dam fol­lows the jatiswaram in a Bharat­natyam dance per­for­mance. The ac­com­pa­ny­ing song is gen­er­ally in ado­ra­tion of the Supreme Be­ing.

Af­ter the shab­dam, the dancer per­forms the var­nam.

The var­nam which is the most im­por­tant com­po­si­tion of the Bharat­natyam reper­toire, en­com­passes both nritta and

nritya and epit­o­mises the essence of this clas­si­cal dance form. The dancer here per­forms com­pli­cated well graded rhyth­mic pat­terns in two speeds show­ing the con­trol over rhythm, and then goes on to de­pict in a va­ri­ety of ways, through ab­hi­naya the lines of the sahitya. This por­trays the dancer’s ex­cel­lence in ab­hi­naya and also re­flects the end­less cre­ativ­ity of the chore­og­ra­pher.

The var­nam is by far one of the most beau­ti­ful com­po­si­tions in In­dian dance.

Af­ter the stren­u­ous var­nam, the dancer per­forms a num­ber of ab­hi­naya items ex­press­ing a va­ri­ety of moods. The bhava or rasa is wo­ven into the sahitya and then ex­pressed by the dancer. The com­mon pieces are keer­tanam, kri­tis, padams and javalis. In the keer­tanam, the text is im­por­tant whereas kriti is a com­po­si­tion in which the mu­si­cal as­pect is high­lighted. Both are usu­ally de­vo­tional in char­ac­ter and rep­re­sent episodes from the lives of Rama, Siva, Vishnu, etc. Padams and javalis, are on the theme of love, of­ten di­vine. A Bharat­natyam per­for­mance ends with a tillana which has its ori­gin in the tarana of Hin­dus­tani mu­sic. It is a vi­brant dance per­formed to the ac­com­pa­ni­ment of mu­si­cal syl­la­bles with a few lines of sahitya. The fi­nale of the piece is a se­ries of well de­signed rhyth­mic lines reach­ing a cli­max. The per­for­mance ends with a man­galam in­vok­ing the bless­ings of the Gods.

The ac­com­pa­ny­ing or­ches­tra con­sists of a vo­cal­ist, a mri­dan­gam player, vi­olin­ist or veena player, a flautist and a cym­bal player. The per­son who con­ducts the dance recita­tion is the Nat­tuva­nar.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.