How many types of Bharatanatyam are there

Bharatanatyam - India's ballet

Bharatanatyam is considered the ballet dance of India. Meret from the “Pfeffer” team attended a lesson - and received exciting insights into a foreign culture.

The dance lesson begins. The students step in front of their guru individually and greet them first, then the audience and then the gods Vishnu, Shiva and Devi. Together they start with pounding basic steps, which are decorated with elegant hand movements. As the beat becomes faster and the turns become more frequent, the guru takes the younger children to one side and lets them sing as accompaniment.

When the older members have finished their dance sequence, there is a pause during which the guru teaches the younger children new hand signals. The older dancers already know everyone. A second dance follows. The guru now accompanies the dancers with singing. The longer the dance, the more children suspend at the instruction of the guru. So you can see the dance units - the adavu - which you don't know yet, before you learn them yourself. The smaller children go home and the older ones dance one last dance.

Four dance groups

The girls got to know each other in the Tamil school, and from then on they attended dance classes together. Her group consists only of girls, but men also dance Bharatanatyam. The dancers are divided according to age. This results in four groups, between 4 and 24 years of age.

The oldest group has been dancing together for over 6 years. The girls are trained by Mangalanayagi Vasanthakumar, who leads the dancers as director. She has been dancing since early childhood and has been a guru for 25 years. She has also been training young dancers at a dance school in Lucerne for 20 years.

India's oldest dance

Tamil is spoken during the dance lesson. The singing is from Sanskrit, but it is notated in Tamil. The children and young people who meet once a week to dance all have ancestors in Sri Lanka or Tamil Nadu in southern India. Some of the parents of the young dancers also learned Bharatanatyam, but less actively.

The word Bharatanatyam consists of various Sanskrit word elements: "Bha" comes from the word Bhava (expression), "ra" from raga (melody), "ta" from tala (rhythm) and "natyam" means dance. So it's a combination of expression, melody and rhythm.

Bharatanatyam is the oldest dance in India and is often compared to ballet because of its cultural value. Both dances require years of training, and both dances tell stories. In the case of Bharatanatyam, however, the narratives are much more detailed.

Implement religion through dance

Originally the dance was developed to implement South Indian religious ideas in dance and to tell Hindu myths. The most important gods are Vishnu, Shiva and Devi. A solo dancer used to dance to Carnatic music in a Hindu temple until the anti-dance movement of missionaries began in 1892 under the colonial power of the British Empire.

The reason: The dancers are entertainment girls and not real dancers. When the Bharatanatyam was completely banned in 1910, the population rebelled so strongly that the dance was accepted again and since then it can be danced everywhere.

Beat the beat on wood

Typically, the upper body is upright during the dance, while the legs remain bent. The feet are barefoot and the dancers wear a colored sari. The music is in the Carnatic style, which is mostly known in South India, and the guru is the singer.

Mangalanayagi Vasanthakumar, who teaches in Thun, dispenses with accompanying music while practicing and is content with a wooden stick that she hits on the floor in time.

Speak with hand and foot

The most exciting thing about Bharatanatyam are the different ways in which a message can be conveyed: The clearest signs are the hand signals - the hastas - which become mudras as soon as they symbolize something. Each character corresponds to a word. Complex sentences emerge when linked. It works similarly with the feet.

There are different foot positions, these are called mandalas. Through various combinations of mudras and mandalas, but also different facial expressions and looks, a dancer can offer his audience an unbelievable range of impressions and sensations. Meret Schmid (19) is a high school student at the Thun Schadau site. Her hobbies are swimming, handball and reading.

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