Intro to Bharatanatyam

Components of Bharatanatyam

A classic Bharatanatyam Indian dance poseBharatanatyam is an attempt to embody the divine beauty, rhythms and symbols that exist in the universe.  It is a means of spiritual elevation both for the dancer and the audience.


The name Bharatanatyam some believe, is meant to signify Bhartha (the author of the Natya Shastra, a famous 2000 year old Indian treatise on the performing arts, encompassing theater, dance and music) and natya (Sanskrit for the art of sacred dance-drama brought to the stage).


The word Bharatanatyam is also sometimes given a folk etymology as follows:

Bha (for Bhava or abhinaya and expression),

Ra (for raga or melody) and

Ta (for tala or rhythm).


The main components of Bharatanatyam are:


1.  Pure dance movements for the visual depiction of rhythm. These movements embody two aspects: lasya (feminine) and tandava (masculine).

2.  Dramatic art of story telling, abhinaya

3.  Combination of story telling and pure dance


Other important aspects of Bharatanatyam are:


Geometry of dance

The Bharatanatyam dancer appears to weave an exquisite series of intricate geometrical patterns involving poses and complex footwork in rhythmic patterns. Some examples are the Straight lines of arms and legs; Parallel lines of arm & leg and gaze; and Diamond shapes created by the half sitting and full sitting positions. These shapes are highlighted in this video of one of my students.



These hand gestures by a Bharatanatyam dancer function as sign language to narrate a story and to demonstrate certain concepts such as objects, nature and emotion. Mudra hand gestures are also used in yoga, meditation, and for healing purposes.



The use of the eyes in Bharatanatyam dance is well described in an excerpt from Natya Shastra, "Where the hands are, go the eyes; where the eyes are, goes the mind; where the mind goes, there is an expression of inner feeling."


I cover all these components of Bharatanatyam in great detail in my Bharatanatyam classes. My semi-classical Indian dance classes provide a basic introduction to these concepts sufficient to incorporate them into the dances the students learn.



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For further information on the dance classes I offer, please visit my Classes page.

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Phone: 1-215-295-2306