most celebrated art form of the Southern Indian State
of Tamil Nadu, Bharatanatyam is a dynamic and earthy
dance style. It is, in effect, a tradition that demands
of the performer - total dedication, detachment from
wordly ties and a sublimation of self to the art. Bharatanatyam
is a relatively new name. It was earlier known as Sadir,
Dasi attam, and Thanjavur Natyam.
The contemporary form of Bharatanatyam evolved during
the late 18th or early 19th century. Sadir, which was
till then the domain of devadasis (girls who were dedicated
to gods), reached its nadir during 1910-1930 with the
degeneration of social mores. But during 1926-35, under
the championship of E. Krishna Iyer, the dance regained
its majesty and came to be known as Bharatanatyam.
Bharatanatyam dancers are usually women and, like the
sculptures they take their positions from, always dance
bent-kneed. It is an extremely precise dance style where
a huge repertoire of hand movements are used to convey
moods and expressions.
Bharatanatyam is vibrant and very demanding of the dancer.
The body is visualized as made of triangles, one above
and one below the torso. It is based upon a balanced
distribution of body weight and firm positions of the
lower limbs, allowing the hands to cut into a line,
to flow around the body, or to take positions that enhance
the basic form. A special feature of this dance form
are Padams or poems on the hero-heroine theme. The tempo
of these love songs is slow and each phase of the performance
is crystallized into a specific mood of love.