Sydney dances to the tune of Bharatanatyam

By Saraswati Singh

The Indian traditional Bharatanatyam dance is being learned by many people in Sydney.

Bharatanatyam dance serves as the expression of Hindu religious themes and devotions, and its techniques and terminology have been traced back to ancient treatises such as the Natya Shasta.

In the pure style, Bharatanatyam beats the feet to a complex counter rhythm, the legs are bent in characteristic low squats, and the arms, neck and shoulders are part of the movement.

Bharatanatyam is based on the 108 positions of Lord Nataraja which are described in the Natya Shasta, a text focused on the art of performance.

Bha means emotion, Ra means music, Ta means rhythm, and Natyam mean dance. Thus, Bharatanatyam is a dance that encompasses music, rhythm, and expression.

Bharatnatyam was originally performed exclusively by female temple dancers and was not brought to the stage for public performance until about 1930.

A program of Bharatanatyam usually lasts two hours without interruption and includes a specific list of procedures, all performed by one dancer.

The hands tell the story through conventional gesture language, while the face expresses the mood. In pure dance, the hands are restricted to 11 mudras (symbolic hand gestures). Bharatanatyam includes three basic forms which are the Melattur, Pandanallur and Vazhuvoor .

A Bharatanatyam dancer. Photos: Param Chandrasekaran

Natwar school of arts and dance owner Nandini Chandrasekaran said the school’s mission is for the students to “enjoy the bliss of dancing and singing for the pleasure of the supreme Lord”.

“So basically whatever we do everything is for the devotion of the Lord,” said Chandrasekaran. “We do it as a part of a service that we give back to the God.

“Bharatanatyam is a mother of all dancers from which all the other dances are based. [It] is very tough. If you learn it all the other dances become very easy to learn because it involves yoga, meditation, concentration, body flexibility [and] ability.”

This dance is affecting all three levels of consciousness: mental, physical and spiritual.

Actually, it is not just a dance. It’s the art of living life and connecting people with spirituality.

Feature Image: Bharatanatyam dance – a way to worship God. Photo: Nandani Chandrasekaran

Leave a Reply