Bharatanatyam is a classical Indian dance form that originated in Tamil Nadu, a southern state of India. It is one of the oldest and most popular dance styles in India, with a rich cultural heritage that dates back over 2000 years. Bharatanatyam dance form is characterized by its graceful movements, intricate hand gestures, and rhythmic footwork. The dance is performed to classical Indian music, which is accompanied by the melodious voice of a singer and the beat of a percussion instrument. Baratanatyam has a strong spiritual and religious background, and it is often performed in temples and other religious places.
Looking for classical dance classes for kids? Or for yourself? Have you tried bharatanatyam dance classes? From being an entertainment form for rulers to becoming a pan-India and global classical art form, Bharatanatyam has indeed grown by leaps and bounds over the last century and has managed to hold a pride of place amongst India’s eight illustrious classical dance forms.
Where did Bharatanatyam originate?
First found in Natya Shastra written by sage Bharat Muni, bharatanatyam is the oldest dance form in India. You will find various sculptures and paintings from between the sixth and ninth century CE, depicting bharatanatyam as a refined dance form from the second century CE. This graceful dance originated in Tamil Nadu where ladies known as devadasis would dance in temples. The dances related tales of ancient devotional stories. This practice continued till the 19th century after which contributions of the Tanjore brothers brought the dance form more popularity through stage productions. It is then that it acquired the modern form we follow today with universal themes and ideas.
Why has this dance been so popular despite the presence of so many other art forms and cultural pursuits in a heritage-rich country like India? After all, there is no shortage of classical dance classes in India. The unique grace and beauty in the movements and expressions of bharatanatyam dancers are undoubtedly attractive reasons. But is there more to it? Let’s delve deeper into the benefits of learning bharatanatyam dance.
Bharatanatyam Arangetram is a Milestone in the Journey of a Bharatanatyam Dancer, read more on this blog.
Why you should learn bharatanatyam dance
1. Good eye exercise
There are various eye movements (drishti bheda) in Bharatanatyam that help in exercising your eyeballs. Rolling your eyes in alokita, moving your eyeballs to the corners in saachi, looking upwards and downwards in ullokita and avalokita respectively and so on, are all effective eye exercises that help strengthen your eye muscles by increasing blood circulation to the organs that we use the most every waking second. These simple movements also ensure that your eyes are not tired from constant use. So bharatanatyam helps maintain health in your visual sense organ.
2. Increased physical fitness
- The different adavus (basic dance movements), mudras (hand gestures), and araimundi (sitting in a squatted position with the heels of your feet touching each other and your toes pointed outwards making a V shape) strengthen the arm, thigh, and leg muscles. They also ensure a perfect and aligned posture that strengthens and lengthens your spine.
- Jathis in bharatanatyam are equivalent to a good cardio regimen. They act as an effective warm-up exercise and help you dance longer and increase endurance.
- Children perform songs that are eight to ten minutes long.
This increases their stamina. More advanced students perform varnams that are 30 minutes long!
“My bharatanatyam dance class is the time of week I wait for the most. At first, my knees hurt and I found it tough to maintain those angles with my arms,” shares 10 year old Sahasra. “But now I enjoy the challenge of maintaining these poses and dancing longer.”
3. Enhanced sense of balance
With araimundi and muzhu mandi and various postures that challenge you to find your sense of gravity, Bharatanatyam has infinite poses that encourage you to maintain physical as well as mental balance.
“You feel a certain sense of control and peace when you are balancing yourself on one leg, or putting all your weight on your thighs and knees,” says 16 year old Prakruti.
4. Chance to learn new languages
Bharatanatyam songs are set to Sanskrit, Tamil, Kannada, and Telugu songs. When you learn dance steps and enact scenes with full understanding and assimilation of the meaning of the songs in different languages, you feel empowered as well as connected to a wider group of people. Your enhanced understanding of different regions of the country encourages a sense of harmony and integration that is greatly required in today’s world.
“We are Gujaratis”, says mother of Parul, a 15–year-old. “But my daughter is comfortable dancing to Tamil and Telugu songs.”
The best part is that since it is all sent to song, you don’t even feel the effort. It becomes a natural extension of your skill sets.
Looking for Bharatanatyam classes in Bangalore? SaPa’s Sanjay Nagar branch is starting classes from November 6, 2022. Register now!
5. Improved flexibility & movement
Shiro Bheda (head movements), Greeva Bheda (neck movements), Drishti Bheda (eye Movements), araimundi (seated squat), and many more such movements in bharatanatyam ensure that dancers move and exercise different parts of the body – both independently and simultaneously. The awareness of the functionalities and movements of your body parts makes your body supple and flexible and feet light. You experience greater connection and relation with different parts of your body. Not something you generally focus on but something that makes you feel more alive all the same!
6. Enhanced self expression
Bharatanatyam dancers are trained to be articulate and emotive; they have strong storytelling skills and the beauty is that it is all non-verbal! With their hand gestures and facial expressions, and, in fact, their entire body, dancers can express powerful emotions and evoke strong feelings in the audience. For your quiet, introverted child, this is a wonderful mode of expression that builds interest and confidence in revealing their inner self – where they subconsciously share that latent emotion they were struggling with. So, look no further, bharatanatyam classes are the perfect dance classes for kids.
7. Connection to Indian culture
Dance is a medium to introduce children to Indian culture and heritage. Why is this important in a globalised and multicultural society? Because as we grow and move in this diverse society, the question Who am I? will strike you often. Who we are becomes a very important question.
As wonderful as it is to assimilate and mingle amidst the diversity, it is just as important to know where you come from, what you stand for, who your ancestors were. It gives you identity and a sense of belonging. Many elements of our culture seem outdated. Many mythological stories and folk tales are related through dance. It is not easy to connect children to old India – its unique beliefs. Bharatanatyam makes your task easier, preserving India’s art and culture for posterity, ensuring it doesn’t get lost.
“My daughter tells me mythological tales that I had long forgotten about. She tells me the different avatars of Vishnu easily and is able to recite shlokas. Her excitement at being able to ‘teach’ me is palpable,” says mother of 8 year old Vaibhavi.
8. Base for learning other dance forms
Bharatanatyam trains you to be versatile and comfortable with other dance forms. You will find yourself at home with contemporary, Bollywood, free style dance, and even other classical dance forms. The grace and finesse of the bharatanatyam dancer is hard to miss! You can always tell a classically trained dancer in a group. So, even if your child wants to learn other dance forms, tell him/her to learn a classical form first. It will make them much more fluent in their preferred choice of dance later.
9. Improved career prospects
The National Education Policy (NEP) has given a boost to music and dance as it has included arts in the curriculum in a holistic manner. So, students can now systematically pursue music and dance such as bharatanatyam and make active careers out of them. So learning these creative pursuits is not left to chance. Schools and colleges will offer elective courses. Apart from being a professional dancer, you can be a dance teacher, dance director, and choreographer. As dance includes myriad expressions, the world of theatre is also an option.
There is a rhythm in everything in life – from your heart beating to the clock ticking, and dance helps you connect to that rhythm. Moving with this rhythm and flow ensures a harmonious path along life’s journey. Come, explore this journey with bharatanatyam classes at SaPa – the home for music, musicians, and dancers!
Bharatanatyam is a classical Indian dance form that originated in Tamil Nadu, India. It is known for its graceful movements, intricate hand gestures, and rhythmic footwork.
Bharatanatyam has a deep cultural and spiritual significance in Indian culture. It is often seen as a form of spiritual practice, as it involves a deep connection between the dancer, the music, and the audience.
The amount of time it takes to learn Bharatanatyam depends on the individual’s dedication and commitment to the art form. It typically takes several years of training and practice to become proficient in Bharatanatyam.