You are on page 1of 15


Classical Indian Dance

By: Sunitha.s

Intro. to Bharatanatyam
It is a classical dance form originating from Tamil Nadu, a state in Southern India. It is one of the five major styles of dance in India. Other dance styles include Odissi, Kuchipudi, and Kathak.

Intro. To Bharatanatyam cont.

The word Bharata is broken down into Bha meaning expression, Ra meaning melody, and Ta meaning rhythm. It is usually accompanied with Indian music called Sangeetam which are words or syllables set to the rhythm of the dance.

Historical Background
In ancient times, Bharatanatyam was used by the wives of gods called devadasis who danced in the Hindu temples. It was formed by the Natyashastra, which is similar to the bible for Indian classical dancing. Many of the sculptures in the ancient Hindu temples are based on the Bharatanatyam dance postures. The Lord Shiva became the supreme god who improved and modified the dance. The gods, who danced themselves, passed it on to the humans on earth.

Indian Gods
Here is a picture of the god Krishna. In dance he is portrayed as playing the flute which is his main hobby.

Indian Gods Cont.

Here is the picture of the god of dance, Nataraja and how he is portrayed in Bharatanatyam.

Indian Gods cont.

This is the goddess of war, Durga, who is always shown with many weapons. She always sits on a tiger as well. It takes a lot of dancers to portray her many hands.

There are three main techniques encompassing Bharatanatyam: Hastas, Adavus, and Abhinaya.

A distinctive feature of Bharata natyam is the use of expressive hand gestures or hastas as a way of communication. Hastas refers to the variety of hand symbols that a dancer can use. Many hastas can be used in more than one way, depending on the song accompanying the dance, and what the dancer is trying to convey to the audience. The hand gesture or hasta on the right portrays a bud that will ultimately turn into a flower. ampg1.htm

Adavus are basic steps or units taught in systematic order and combined to form a sequence of choreographed dance. Adavus are always based upon the rhythmic pattern of the musical compositions for each step. Adavus uses the dancers whole body. There can be more than 160 different types of adavus.

Abhinaya Abhinaya is the use of

facial expressions and gestures. It is typically used for communication throughout the dance. Many times dancers use these facial expressions to portray Indian gods especially the god of dance, Shiva or Nataraja. Abhinaya is what distinguishes Bharatanatyam from other dance styles throughout the world. In this picture it shows how the character Rama tells his wife that he will be back from hunting a deer. Sita his wife is worried and she has a sad expression on her face.

The instruments frequently used in Bharatanatyam are the mridangam (percussion instrument similar to the drums), the flute, the veena (stringed instrument), and a violin. The picture shows a mrindangam on the top and a veena on the bottom. A singer is the most important person in the orchestra who sets the beat for the dancer. Here is a sample of music to listen to:

Modern Times
In contemporary times, Bharatanatyam has grown into many different styles taught by different teachers. It is mainly used for entertainment. Some shows describe the story of gods and characters in Indian culture. For example, Rama is a god who goes to earth to destroy the 10 headed evil tyrant Ravana, who is displayed in the picture below. There are many Bharatanatyam concerts held throughout the world to celebrate the customs, beliefs, and culture of India.

Video on Bharatanatyam
Identify each technique: Hasta, Adavu, Abhinaya Is there a difference in the music when Abhinaya/Facial expressions are seen? Can you hear any of the instruments you learned?

1. What are the three words that are in the meaning of Bha-ra-ta? 2. Did Bharatanatyam originate from the Gods or the humans? And how did it form? 3. What are the two names for the god of dance? 4. What are the three techniques of Bharatanatyam and which one uses facial expression? 5. Which instrument is similar to the drum? 6. Which Indian god/goddess uses weapons?