Student’s attitude

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India has a tradition of respect for elders, and especially teachers. This attitude was a foundation of the gurukul system. It turns out that there are some practical and compelling reasons for a open minded, humble, and respectful attitude in a Bharatanatyam student.


An open minded student, with respect for the teacher, and a willingness to follow the teacher’s instructions without analyzing or judging them, will absorb more during the class. With the limited time available for a typical dance class, maximizing the learning process is important. Questioning what’s being taught during the class, and comparing it to what one already knows, blocks the transmission of knowledge from the teacher to the student. Questions and doubts are best left for discussion after formal classes.

Bharatanatyam has subtleties and nuances that a student does not easily pick up by listening to the teacher’s words. These qualities are transmitted through body language. The student needs to be humble enough to be willing to emulate the teacher’s every movement, repeatedly and consistently. Any thought that the student knows better, will interfere with this process.

Finally, Bharatanatyam is powerful at expressing emotions, and subtle variations in them. For a mature dancer, it is a vehicle for self expression. It’s also a double-edged sword, as what’s inside the dancer will be revealed. Humility and respect towards the teacher, the tradition, and the art, come across in the performance. Devotion to the divine, or bhakti, is an ideal attitude for a Bharatanatyam dancer. These characteristics result in the disappearance of the dancer into what he or she is portraying. The audience gets a direct experience of the theme of the dance item. On the other hand, pride and ego in the dancer give the audience the experience of watching a person dancing, and pretending to be something he or she isn’t.