Bharatanatyam, dating back about 2,500 years, is the most popular of Indian dances and belongs to the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. In Bharatanatyam, the dancer appears to weave a series of geometrical patterns in several angular shapes. When the essence of Bha- Bhaava (Expressions), Ra- Raga (Music), and Ta-Tala (Rhythm) coalesce into a coherent art form, a Bharatnatyam dance is created. In performing nritta (pure dance) to a chosen time cycle and melody, a dancer executes patterns that reveal the architectonic beauty of the form with a series of dance units called jathis or teermanams. With the torso as a unit and the legs in a semi-plié form, the stance achieves the basic posture called araimandi. In nritya (dance with expression), a dancer performs to a poem, creating a parallel kinetic poetry of movement, registering subtle expressions on the face while the entire body reacts to the emotions, evoking sentiments in the spectator for relish - the rasa.
The accompanying music is classical Carnatic, South Indian classical music. The themes are from Hindu mythology, the epics and the Puranas (stories of ancient time). The elaborate use of hand gestures, or hasta mudras, is an integral part of this dance.Bharatanatyam, a highly evolved Indian dance style, originated about 2500 years ago in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
It is named after Sage Bharata, who wrote the Natyashastra, an ancient treatise on Indian classical dance, with the objective of propagating Vedic knowledge. Thus this dance strives to create a vision of the Divine truth. The well-spring of Bharatanatyam is the rich and complex storehouse of Indian mythology: the Puranas, the Epics, and ancient literature.
The term Bharatanatyam can be split into Bha: Bhava or emotion, Ra: Raga or melody, and Ta: Tala or rhythm, the three basic components of Indian classical dance.The dancer incorporates pure dance (Nritta) and enacting and expression (Abhinaya) to convey the meaning and mood of the song; thus the three aspects of the dance are Nritta (pure dance), Natya (mime), and Nritya (dance and mime).
In the first half of the 19th century, the talented brothers of the Tanjore quartet (Chinnayya, Ponnayya, Sivanandan, and Vadivelu) revitalized Bharatanatyam and composed music specifically for the dance. The beauty of Bharatanatyam lies in its strong movements and grace.