The classical dance of Bharatanatyam has its origin in India, especially the Hindu temples located in Tamil Nadu and its surrounding areas like Karnataka in the Southern India. The fact that this type of dance had women as its exclusive performers makes it an interesting dance. Also, its performance in the traditional setting was in the form of a solo. According to Kumar, it is one of India’s oldest classical dances as it is about two thousand years old. The Indians believe that the dance came from the spiritual world. They hold that their Lord Brahma gave Bharata the sacred dance, and its coding was in Natya Shasta, which is a Sanskrit text. The essay describes the Indian art through its themes or ideas, the popular dancers, performance, features, history, and its current presentation.
Three themes are dominant in the dance of Bharatanatyam. The ideas that the Indians expressed using the dance were spiritual, while it had religious themes. The connection of the dance’s thematic concepts to the spiritual world and religion is due to the belief that it is a gift that came from Brahma. The ideas include Shaivism, Shaktism, and Vashinavism. The first one, Shaivism, refers to how the Indians used the dance as a method of worshiping their Lord Shiva. Shaivsm is a common religious practice in the Southern part of the country where the art originated. The second theme of Shaktism was also religious. In this regard, the Indians used Bharatanatyam to worship Shakti. The Indians believed in Shakti as their goddess of power. The final theme of Vashinavism is the Indian tradition of worshiping Vishnu. The Indians believe in Vishnu as their Supreme Lord through the practice of Vashinavism.
The performance of the traditional art requires complex physical movements. The dancer fixes the upper torso during the dance’s performance. Secondly, he bends the legs and out-flexes the knees while combining these rigorous moves with a remarkably complicated footwork. However, what makes the masterpiece more interesting than any art is sophisticated sign language. Its vocabulary includes signaling using the hands and eyes. The dancer also gives the facial gestures. There is some background music to which the performer dances. The singer, director, and conductor are the people who are also present on the stage, creating the impression of liveliness. Sudhakar explains that the dance is a way of narrating the myths of the Hindu legends and the religion’s spiritual concepts.
Interesting about dancing Bharatanatyam is the dancers’ display of energy. The movements, as Kumar explains, are highly athletic. The dancers combine these physical manipulations with showing their inner feelings in a dramatic way. They perform it in solo or group. In either of the dance categories, the artists make eye-catching (beautiful) movements and they are expressive with their gestures, facial expression, and positioning of their eyes. For example, they may fold their legs and look up with their fingers pointing upwards. The audience imagines his connection with the spiritual world. Also, the dancers change from symmetrical patterns to asymmetrical ones. The Indians display exquisite cooperation when they perform the dance in a group. Their outstanding partnering, possibly, means that they unite in their religious meditation using the item.
Some of Bharatanatyam’s popular dancers include Rukmini Devi, Padma Subramanyam, Alarmel Valli, and Yamini Krishnamurthy. The others are Anita Ratnam, Malika Sarabhai, Balasarswati, and Minakshi Sundaram Pillai. The distinctive of the dancers is that they lived at different historical time-frames. Also, the artistes evolved their art of dancing Bharatanatyam as they introduced new styles that were best suitable for the different occasions. Furthermore, the expressions that each of the dancers gave were unique, meaning that the danced developed from one historical period to another. Therefore, it is not a static performance because each generation of dancers modifies their styles of presenting it. However, the current generations understand the ancient techniques because the old performers pass them to the next generation.
The dance’s features are similar to those of any other classical style. Firstly, it has the feature called nitra. It refers to pure dance. The second characteristic is nritya, which means “a solo expressive dance.” Finally, it has the feature of natya, which is an assembly dramatic performance.
Historically, it is possibly the oldest Indian classical dance because historical evidence shows that it originated about two thousand years ago. The masterpiece has its theoretical proof in the early Indian Sanskrit texts. According to Anand, most Indians consider the dance as the oldest classical form. Although the available records of the dance belong to the 9th century, Anand explains that it might have originated much earlier. Historical details also relate the Southern India to the dance’s origin. Bharata Muni is the dance artiste associated with its genesis. He lived around the second century, and he wrote the principles for the dance. They (the principles) are known as “Natya Shastra,” while the word “Natyam” refers to the dance. The dance’s use was exclusively in the temples.
However, the dance evolved from one century to another in its history. For example, the 18th century was the time when it gained its recital format. The colonial experience of India from the British government led to the banning of the dance in 1910. The British banned Bharatanatyam because it gained negative attitudes. The decline of the Devadasi community also lost the dance’s popularity. The British colonizers considered the dance as a social evil. The colonial experience almost made Bharatanatyam extinct by the 20th century even in Tamil Nadu, the southern region where it started.
The dance revived after India’s colonization. Anand explains the favorable factors that led to its revival. Firstly, some Indian families preserved the dance’s knowledge and passed it to their future generations. Also, the country’s freedom warriors, the western civilizations that liked the Indian art and the non-members of the Devadasi community favored its continuity after colonization.
Today, Indians still value and perform the dance. However, the modern-day Bharatanatyam has changed completely from the original form. For example, the Indians no longer use it in the temples for worshipping. Secondly, it has become a pure dance that has no religious connections. The current state of the dance has also captured technical performance and included fashion themes. Poniah Pillai, a member of the Tanjore family, is the person behind the present-day form that Bharatanatyam has taken. The dance has also gained a lot of popularity globally, including the USA where many people like it.
In conclusion, the Bharatanatyam dance is a classical performance that originated in the Southern part of India, more so in Tamil Nadu. Bharata wrote its principles. Originally, the performance belonged to the Indian temples where it had a worship function. However, the colonial experience almost wiped out the ancient art. The British interpreted the dance as evil. The end of the colonization revived it, especially because some families had preserved the dance. The western countries that admired the Indian culture also supported the revival. Today, the dance is popular as an Indian ancient masterpiece. Nonetheless, it has changed because it is not a worship dance. Also, its popularity and performance have spread to entire world.