Bharatanatyam (Tamil: பரதநாட்டியம்) is a classical Indian dance form originating in Tamil Nadu, India. One of the oldest of the classical dance forms in India, it is also known as the fifth Veda. Bharatanatyam is usually accompanied by the classical music. It has its inspirations from the sculptures of the ancient temple of Chidambaram. Bharatanatyam, as the name depicts is the combination of: BHA- Bhava (Expression), RA- Raga (Music) and TA- Tala (Rhythm) Bharatanatyam is a traditional dance-form known for its grace, purity, tenderness, and sculpturesque poses. Today, it is one of the most popular and widely performed dance styles and is practiced by many dancers all over the world.
Many of the ancient sculptures in Hindu temples are based on Bharata Natyam dance postures karanas. In fact, it is the celestial dancers, apsara's, who are depicted in many scriptures dancing the heavenly version of what is known on earth as Bharatanatyam. In the most essential sense, a Hindu deity is a revered royal guest in his temple/abode, to be offered the "sixteen hospitalities" - among which are music and dance, pleasing to the senses. Thus, many Hindu temples traditionally maintained complements of trained musicians and dancers, as did Indian rulers.
* Jewelry - Bharatanatyam dancers wear a unique set of jewelry known as "Temple Jewelry" during the performance.
* Costume - From the ancient texts and sculptures, one can see that the original costume did not cover most of the dancers' bodies. The medieval times, with the puritanistic drive, caused the devadasis to wear a special, heavy saree that severely restricted the dance movements. There are several varieties of Bharatanatyam costumes, some of which do not restrict the dancer's movements, while the others do. The modern costumes are deeply symbolic, as their purpose is to project the dancer's sukshma sharira (cf.aura), in the material world.
* Music - The accompanying music is in the Carnatic style of South India.
* Ensemble - Mostly, South Indian instruments are used in the ensemble. These include, the mridangam (drum), nagaswaram (long pipe horn made from a black wood), the flute, violin and veena (stringed instrument traditionally associated with Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of the arts and learning).
* Languages - Tamil, Telugu and Kannada are traditionally used in Bharatanatyam.
Ideal qualities of dancers:
A professional Bharatanatyam dancer must demonstrate a number of qualities. As Sangitaratnakara puts it, the true dance is connected to the beauty of the body, therefore any other dance is simply a parody.
The AbhinayaDarpana has a sloka that describes Patra Prana Dasha Smrutaha - the ten essentials of the dancer: Javaha (Agility), Sthirathvam (Steadiness), Rekha (graceful lines), Bhramari(balance in pirouettes), Drishti (glance), Shramaha (hard work), Medha (intelligence), Shraddha(devotion), Vacho (good speech), and Geetam (singing ability).