Why Bharatanatyam Dancing Deserves More Attention
Since ancient times, Bharatanatyam has been one of the oldest and most well-known forms of classical dance. According to sculptural and literary evidence, it is believed that the original purpose of Bharatanatyam was to honor the gods, particularly Lord Shiva, in temples throughout India. This immensely popular dance form was taught to many little girls as a celebration of beauty, passion, and devotion for almost 2000 years. So why is it becoming lost in today’s society?
The answer is simple--it’s being replaced. In the 21st century, little girls would rather partake in dance that is modern and trendy than immerse themselves in dance that has been around for generations upon generations. In fact, many of these little girls aren’t even aware of what Bharatanatyam is, let alone have the opportunity to master it. It is evident that people need to pay more attention to Bharatanatyam like they do to ballet, jazz, and other forms of dance. There are some remarkable mental and physical benefits associated with learning Bharatanatyam, which is all the more reason to pay attention to it.
To start, Bharatanatyam is an incredible way to stay healthy and active. Like any form of dance, Bharatanatyam is physically taxing and requires lots of lower body strength. It also incorporates a great deal of discipline into the routine. The aramandi position, commonly known as the starting position, requires bending the knees so that the dancer is anywhere from one-half to three-fourths of their original height. This position must be maintained for the entire duration of the dance and dancers must make a conscious effort not to return to their regular height. Throughout the dance, there are usually leaps, falls, and other moves that require the dancer to maintain full control over their body.
In addition, dancers must also remember all their mudras, or hand gestures. There are about 60 different mudras and a typical dance can be anywhere from three to twenty minutes, containing up to 50 different mudras. Moreover, there are also many different facial expressions, eye movements, neck movements to keep track of. It’s safe to say that Bharatanatyam requires an enormous amount of mental discipline since memorizing every slightest detail for that long is not an easy feat.
The issue of costumes is also no cake walk. Bharatanatyam dancers typically wear three layers of clothing in addition to jewelry, hair pieces, and ghungroos, which are thick anklets with four rows of bells. Holistically, an entire costume can easily weigh up to five pounds. Unlike other dancers, Bharatanatyam dancers have lots of heavy lifting to do (regarding their costumes). With this added weight, it becomes inherently harder to dance.
Any Bharatanatyam dancer will tell you how challenging Bharatanatyam truly is. From the mudras and the aramandi position, to the costumes and more, anyone can see how challenging Bharatanatyam really is. Fortunately, it is definitely worth it. The feeling of being able to produce an amazing story by simply moving your body is incomparable and irreplaceable.
I have been a Bharatanatyam dancer for eight years now and have not regretted a single moment of it. I started out as a eight year-old who screamed and cried every single Saturday morning because I dreaded going to practice. Over the years, Bharatanatyam has transformed me into someone who loves, and looks forward to going to practice every other day. I have come a long way in eight years, going from the kid who resented my mom for signing me up for dance, to the young adult who has come to love this incredible dance form.
As great as it is, it is obvious that Bharatanatyam is slowly becoming less popular. However, this can change. I hope that, once people understand how unparalleled Bharatanatyam is, they will find themselves drawn to it as I was. After all, who doesn’t love a good challenge?