Bharatnatyam is a classical Indian dance form that originated in the temples of Tamil Nadu. Bharatnatyam, as the name depicts is the combination of: BHA- Bhava (Expression), RA- Raga (Music) and TA- Tala (Rhythm). Bharatnatyam is based on Carnatic classical music. Traditionally the dance was performed by Devadasis (temple dancers) in the ancient temples and their performances were an inherent part of the elaborate temple and court rituals. Bharatnatyam was also one of the dance forms described in the Natya Shastra and is known for its grace, purity, tenderness, and sculpturesque poses. Lord Shiva is considered the God of this dance form. Today, it is one of the most popular and widely performed dance styles and is practiced by male and female dancers all over the world.
Bharatnatyam has three distinct streams or aspects: 1) Nritta is pure dance or sequences of dance that are non interpretative in nature where the movements or gestures are not meant to convey any message or thought. They are primarily meant to add beauty to the dance form. Adavus (meaning basic steps) form the basic component of Nritta. 2) Nrittya is an interpretative dance and involves a lot of sentiments, emotions and description. The gestures in this stream convey messages or tell a story. This consists of leg, hand, neck, head and eye movements to convey the message. 3) Natya is dance drama and its main technique is Abhinaya (meaning the art of expression). It involves acting out a story for the audience using expressions. Natya is usually performed with a mythological theme. For example, enacting parts of Ramayana or Mahabharata.
The best known Bharatnatyam styles that are practiced today are Melattur, Pandanallur, Vazhuvoor (or Vizhuvur), Thanjavoor (or Tanjore), Mysore, Kanchipooram. The style practiced in Shibaranjani School of Dance is Tanjore. The initial years of Bharatnatyam lesson entail learning the mudra and bhedas and the adavus. Once a student completes these basic learning then they move on to learn Bharatnatyam items such as Alaripu, Jatiswaram, Ganesh Stuti, Shiva Stuti, Sabdam, Tillana, Varnam and more. The completion of learning all the items is followed by Arangetram, which is a public graduation performance.