Odissi dance lives on in the ancient temple sculptures and friezes of the State of Orissa on the eastern coast of India. Neglected in this century, it has been less well known and less practiced than Bharata Natyam.
...in the period from 1923 to 1948, known as the Bharata Natyam revival. Performers, critics, and promoters through Bharata Natyam to the urban proscenium stage, recontextualizing and renaming it. In doing so they crafted a genealogy in which Bharat Natyam came to represent ancient tradition and critical experimentation, nationalism, regional identities and the global transference forms outside of geographical and cultural boundaries.
The revival of Bharat Natyam therefore depended not only on politics, but also on the ability of practitioners and promoters to articulate their understanding of the dance form’s history .
The basis for the Bharat Natyam technique is the perception of the human body as a geometric ideal both in its static position (pictured as the straight axis around which a circle could be drawn) and its articulation through the dance (which explores all the harmonious geometric shapes possible from the central axis within the circle).Shobana Jeyasingh
Unlike ballet, the demi plié of Bharata Natyam is not an intermediary position from which the body moves. The Indian technique demands a muscular consolidation of this position by allowing the weight of the lower body to ‘earth’ it. The arms in natya-aramba in a semi circular shape peculiar to Bharata Natyam create three-dimensional effect to the circle and trace its curve.
Bharata Natyam is an art which consecrates the body which is considered to be in itself of no value. The Yogi by controlling his breath and by modifying his body acquires the halo of sanctity. Even so, the dancer who dissolves her identity in rhythm and music makes her body an instrument at least for the duration of the dance for the experience and expression of the spirit.
...the traditional order of the Bharata Natyam recital viz., Alarippu , Jatiswaram , Sabdane , Varnam, Padams, Tillana and the Slokas is the correct sequence in the practice of this art, which an artistic Yoga , for revealing the spiritual through the corporeal.
At the beginning of the twenty first century, the global status of Bharata Natyam renders the form even more visible.
Bharat Natyam transcends national and cultural boundaries yet remains resolutely tied to them. It circulates globally but operates as a symbol of exotic.
Maharaja Swati Tirunal of Travancore (1813-1847) wrote 67 padams in Sanskrit, Telugu , Kannada and |Malayalam and he introduced them in Bharata Natyam performance by artists patronized by him in his own state. His padams have a rare literary flavour and the padams of this composer are becoming increasingly popular in the Bharat Natyam field…
Raja Srfoji II (1798-1832), the Maratha ruler of Thanjavur rendered a unique service to Bharata Natyam from a different angle. Thanjavur is considered to be the home of Bharta Natyam and the art was at its peak during his time...Serfoji wrote chain compositions in Marathi for use in dance dramas in the Bharata Natyam style and many of these padams and abhinaya padams are intended for choreography.
Bhrata Natyam dancers, like Western dance modernists, strove to validate dance, describing it as a “high” autonomous art that expressed creativity and engaged with serious intellectual and philosophical concerns. Dancers in India, as in the West, validated their performance practice by emphasizing the originality of their work while also drawing on historical sources for their enquireis.
Rukmini Devi Arundale was an invaluable contributant to the rebirth of Bharata Natyam as an accepted dance form, removing the unpleasant eroticism of dasi attam , and like Queen Santala of the eleventh century, showing that dance is a means of expression for all and is a true form of beauty.
The introduction of the Shiva as the central deity to the form, a god who incinerates impurity introduced to Bharata Natyam, a modality quite outside that of devadasi dance, a dance preoccupied with cataloguing the infinite shadings of feeling in love.
Traditionally Bharat Natyam has a close affinity to the floor and pull of gravity. The body “sits” in a demi pile position and energizes itself through rhythmic contact between feet and ground.
...there is nothing in Bharata Natyam which can be purified afresh; it is divine as it is and innately so. The sringara we experience in Bharata Natyam is never carnal; never, never. For those who have yielded themselves to its discipline line with total dedication, dance, like music is the practice of the Presence. It cannot be merely the body’s rapture.
The rules of Bharata Natyam nritta by referring to purely geometric ideals, make it also a totally objective dance.
The ‘musical notes’ in Bharata Natyam are the adavus – units of dance which contain in them the alphabet and grammar of the dance.
Bharata Natyam is grounded in bhakti. In fact bhakti is at the center of all the arts of India. Our music and dance are two important offerings to God.Balasaraswati
The aesthetics and the artistry of Bharata Natyam alike make us realise that sringara has pride of place here. In a sense, Bharata Natyam is a combination of the yoga and mantra sastras. The mudras of the mantra shastras are the same as the hand gestures of Bharata Natyam.Balasaraswati
Natya Shastra was the root for both Bharata Natyam and Kathak, and both are of the same period. Kathak, which flourished in the North , was in the direct eye of the typhoon of invasions.
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