Abstract dance – nrtta.

The dance classes follow the traditional structure and contain the repertoire of basic steps, the adavus. The basic steps are categorized in series, each of which has a special focus, like movement through space, jumps, turns etc.
Every basic step is practised in three speeds, slow - the first speed, double as fast - the second speed, and again double as fast - for the third speed.

Learning of adavus, the basic steps allows building up strength, stamina as well as coordination and helps sensing spatial lines and directions. The perception and execution of rhythm is trained, since this dance style demands accurate work with rhythm. In the way the footwork is performed, it constitutes a percussive element of dance and is thus especially taken care of in dance classes.

Narrative dance – nrtya.

After learning the basics of adavus, the first elements of narrative dance are introduced. Abhinaya, expression of emotions in Bharata Natyam, makes use of facial expression and body language. Just as with adavus, there is a technique in abhinaya that helps the dancer to express an emotion.

The dances.

After being able to perform the adavus in three speeds, the first dance, Alarippu, is learnt. Alarippu means to blossom and is an opening item. It is fully rhythmical (without raga) and starts with clear and simple movements of the eyes, neck, shoulders, arms and hands, then the legs, increasing its complexity during the course of the dance, and finally coming to a climax in a rhythmical sequence.
In a margam, the traditional repertoire of Bharata Natyam, the second dance is the Jatisvaram. Here, raga and tala are interlinked with each other, resulting in another abstract dance, just like Alarippu. The third traditional dance of a margam is the Shabdam. Here abhinaya is introduced for the first time and appears in a very simple form, telling stories of the Indian mythology.

The climax of a margam is the Varnam. With its rhythmic as well as complex narrative content, it symbolizes the longing for the union with the absolute. Being a challenge for any dancer a Varnam usually takes at least half an hour. After the Varnam, two to three Padams are performed, dances mostly of narrative content.

The traditional repertoire is finalized with Tillana, a rhythmic, abstract dance in fast pace, simply expressing the joy of movement. Most Tillanas have a short prayer addressing a deity. And finally, at the end of a margam the dancer and the audience is blessed with a Mangalam.

Asmita Banerjee dancing
Asmita Banerjee dancing