Cultural aspects in Bharatanatyam
Bharatanatyam has a strong element of emotional expression, and a unique aesthetic form, expressed in the movements, postures, costumes, and make-up of the dancer. The themes of traditional dance items are based on Indian legends and characters. Bharatanatyam uses classical carnatic music, with its own melodic and rhythmic patterns. The lyrics are in various Indian languages, most often Tamil, Telugu, Sanskrit, and even Hindi.
The more familiar a dancer is with these aspects of Indian culture, the more natural, comfortable and effortless their performance will seem.
Students are encouraged to read stories from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Bhagavatam, as well as stories about Shiva. These are major sources for many dance items. Stories of various saints often play a part in Bharatanatyam performances. Pay particular attention to the characters and their emotions. The emotion of bhakti, or devotion, is especially prominent in Indian culture. Lots of books are readily available, ranging from scholarly translations of original scriptures to the classic Amar chitra katha comic book series. You’ll find some references in our suggested reading section .. see http://www.samyukta.org/suggested-reading
The costume and make-up of a Bharatanatyam dancer emulates idealized forms that are considered beautiful in ancient Indian sculptures and paintings found in the temples of South India. If you’re accustomed to them, you can relate to the appearance of the dancer, and appreciate it as an ideal of beauty.
Learning carnatic music will complement your dance training. Being able to feel the music will help you dance better. Knowledge of south Indian languages helps you understand, or at least get a sense of, the lyrics of the music.
Places like ‘Kalakshetra’ are striving to keep alive a sense of beauty that is uniquely Indian, and to help people appreciate it for what it is. We’re all so inundated with certain types of entertainment, like TV, movies, and popular music, that it becomes hard to enjoy something that’s different. Learning Bharatanatyam helps students to remain connected to their ancient heritage.