Learning about Bharatanatyam can help you enjoy it more; that’s our motivation for this part of our website. It’s organized into four sections:
- History – the background of the dance, how it got to where it is today, and its current circumstances
- Description –the technical features of the dance, its appearance, and its expressive and spiritual potential
- Kalakshetra –the significance of Kalakshetra and its founder, Rukmini Devi, to Bharatanatyam and to our approach
- Appreciation –the experience of a performance, and what to notice that could increase your enjoyment of it
The study of Bharatanatyam is a broad and deep subject, and getting a complete picture of it requires learning from multiple sources. The art of Bharatanatyam, its place in Indian culture, its interrelationships with other arts and practices, and its history, technique, evolution, and variations, have all been dealt with in scholarly treatises and numerous books. While these are no substitute for directly experiencing the beauty of the dance, they are a valuable supplement when the experiences available are limited or don’t present the full splendor of the art.
The dance forms known today as Bharatanatyam are thought to go back as far as 3,000 years. The Natya Shastra, a scripture attributed to the sage Bharata that deals with theater arts and dance, is about 2,000 years old. Bharatanatyam encompasses various forms of dance, some prevalent at different times in its history, and others arising from different but contemporary schools of practice. What we are familiar with today as Bharatanatyam derives from a particular one of these dance forms. To better understand the dance form, an awareness of its context of Indian culture, from mythology to customs to spirituality, is helpful.
This website offers but a brief introduction, and one perspective, to Bharatanatyam and its significance. The attempt is to provide an understanding of the background of the dance, and the characteristics of our school of Bharatanatyam, leading to a practical appreciation of the art and what it has to offer. We hope our material stimulates your interest in the dance, and we've listed some other resources for further study under Suggested Reading.