“So moving was [Smt Hema Rajagopalan]’s abhinaya that the audience gave her spontaneously a standing ovation.”
– Sunil Kothari, THE HINDU
Originating 2,000 years ago in southern India, Bharata Natyam is one of the most graceful, subtle and sophisticated styles of dance art. It is rooted in The Natyashastra, a treatise on dance, music and drama written by sage Bharata about 3,000 years ago. It is said that the Hindu scriptures (also called Vedas, because they were voluminous) were not being read by the common people. So the gods requested that Bharata create a way to communicate profound knowledge. This was the origin of The Natyashastra, which suggests the use of dance and drama to communicate and create Rasa, an aesthetic experience that transforms the audience.
Bharata Natyam performers must have rigorous attention to technique as well as a wide knowledge of related art forms, especially music. A living and breathing dance theater tradition, Bharata Natyam explores both timeless human concerns and timely complexities of life. The dancer communicates through movements of the limbs, a language of gestures, rhythms executed by footwork, and abhinaya, which is the art of expressing emotions through facial and body language: hands open out and become a flower, birds fly from the dancer’s hand gestures. Each muscle of the dancer’s face transforms into an expressive instrument. As the dancer expresses complex moods and emotions, she or he aspires to create a spiritual message.
Today, Bharata Natyam is not only limited to India, but is a global dance practice. Expanding beyond the ancient traditions of the temples, the repertoire today is infused with both the richness of traditions form the past and the courage for innovation inspired by the present. Performing the dance takes years of devotion and rigorous training. The dance continues to be a form that strikes deeply in humanity, communicating through movement the spiritual and the social. With this rich inheritance of dance theatre, Natya Dance Theatre comments on the spiritual and the social, the past, present and the future through Bharata Nataym dance.