What is Bharatanatyam?
Bharatanatayam is one of the oldest of all the contemporary Indian classical dance forms, originating from Sage Bharata’s Natyashastra. Today, it is one of the most popular and dynamic of Indian classical dance forms, performed by both soloists and groups. Bharatanatyam consists of Bhaavam (expressions), Raagam (melody), Thaalam (rhythm), and Nritta (bodily movements). This art form can be broken down into 3 aspects of dance: Nritta, Nritya, and Natya. Nritta is pure dance movements (devoid of any specific meaning to be conveyed). The nritta of Bharatanatyam is notable for it’s intricate rhythmic patterns, the clear geometries made by the dancer’s body and geometries within the performance space.
Next is Nritya, in which the meaning of the song is expressed through facial expressions, or Abhinaya, and body language. Natya is dance drama where there is a story to be conveyed through dance. The dramatic section of dance is executed through various stylized hand gestures, while the face expresses the mood and conveys the emotions by means of Abhinaya. The dramas usually depict stories from Hindu epics such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana, as well as tales of various gods, goddesses, and lords. The combinations and subtleties of the graceful movements and themes, the close connection with the Carnatic music and the vast realm of Indian mythology, make Bharatanatyam a dance form par excellence.
What is an Arangetram?
An Arangetram is the solo debut performance of a student and literally means “ascend on stage”. In this dance premiere, the teacher presents her debutante to a wider audience. It usually takes place on an auspicious day in the presence of critics, artists, dance patrons and well wishers. This formal dance performance takes place only when a student has acquired an acceptable repertoire of dance items in Bharata Natyam and has reached a certain level in dance. An Arangetram is a great milestone and accomplishment in a dancer's career and takes heavy preparation.
According to the Legendary Balasaraswati, a traditional Bharata Natyam recital is structured like a temple : “We enter through the gopuram (outer hall) of “Alarippu”, cross the ardhamandhapam (half way hall) of “Jatiswaram”, then enter the Mahamandhapam (great hall) of “Shabdam” and finally the holy precinct of the deity in the “Varnam”. Proceeding inwardly from the expanse and the brilliance of the outer precinct to the inner, cooler chambers, garbhagrha in the “Padam” the dancer seeks unification with the deity. Finally the “Thillana” breaks into the movement like the final burning of camphor accompanied by a measure of din and bustle.