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Saturday, 1 October 2011

Bharatanatyam - Theory and Technique

The basic theory of Indian dance assumes the body to be a mass which is equally divisible along a central median. When weight is perfectly balanced the samabhanga position emerges. When there is a slight imbalance the abhanga position is achieved and when there are two deviations on opposite sides then a thrice deflected position appears known as the tribhanga . Bharatanatyam is unique in the fact that the movements it conceives are either straight lines or triangles. The head forms the first unit and moving the head laterally is a common feature. The next unit is the torso which is moved as a whole and this is a characteristic feature of Bharatanatyam. Finally the lower limbs are either seen as a straight line or as the two sides of a triangle in space. Other key aspects in Bharatanatyam are nritta (dance) and abhinaya (acting).

A Bharatanatyam dancer begins from the samapada position which is a simple position in which the dancer's feet are facing forward. The body of the dancer is neither relaxed nor taut. This pose is followed by turning the feet sideways and is known as kalai tiruppadal . After this position comes the ardhamandali in which the feet remain facing sideways and knees also bent sideways. This is the most important position in Bharatanatyam. The dancer then either extends the arms or places them on the waist. Earlier we had talked about the Bharatanatyam emphasis on creating triangles, in this position the triangle would be structured like this.
-The line that joins the two shoulders can be taken to be the base of one triangle and the waist forming the apex.
-From the waist another triangle is conceived with the thighs acting as the sides and the line joining the two knees as the base.
-The third triangle is formed in the region occupied by the two calves and line joining the two knees.
-The arms also form triangles for the bent arm held at the waist forms a triangle.
The above was a brief analysis of just one particular position to enable you to understand the Bharatanatyam concept of triangles, there are many different positions and combinations.
Foot contact is important in Bharatanatyam. The foot touches the ground and the weight is equally distributed when the dancer is in the first position. When the foot is stamped flat on the ground it is known as tattu . The second type of foot contact is when only the toes of one foot touch the ground and the third type of position occurs when the toes are raised and only the heel touches the ground. Various permutations and combinations of one or two feet movements are used to come up with different sequences. These are all usually done in the ardhamandali position. A unit of movement that combines the feet, knees, torso, arms and hands is known as the adavu. Adavus form the basis of Bharatanatyam technique and can be broadly divided into nine groups, with each group further sub divided into different styles. All Adavus are set to a tal (time cycle) and all but a few are executed in the ardhmandali position. To maintain symmetry a movement is executed first with the right foot and then by the left foot. This gives one half of the body a static quality whilst the other depicts movement. We shall now take a look at the nine basic Adavus
1. The dancer begins by stamping in single units known as tei ya tei ye . After beginning on this the dancer may go on to execute other patterns by changing the number of times the foot is stamped or the sequence.
2. This adavu is known as ei yum dat ta tei um ta ha and in this a foot is placed with the heel grounded and toes pointing upwards. The basic movements of this adavu is extending one leg while keeping the other bent with the foot facing sideways. The extension and contraction of the legs takes place in various directions and different combinations. Some beautiful movements are created, with arms and torso following leg extensions, striking poses are characteristic of Bharatanatyam dance.
3. This is known as tat tei tam and it is a combination of flat feet with a jump on the toes. This adavu features the toe-heel movements. Some important movements of this adavu include jumping on the toes in the ardhmandali position. Usually the movements of this adavu are executed in the ardhmandali position with no leg extensions although some movements feature leg extensions to the back with an opposite twist of the torso.
4. This is known as tei hat tei hi and its distinctive feature is that both sets of toes hit the ground simultaneously when the heels are stamped. This adavu is not performed in the ardhmandali position and the dancer uses the heel to toe position and performs the movements with an erect posture. Some lovely movements are thus created involving the extending and closing of the arms etc.
5. The fifth adavu is known as tat tei ha ha and in this the dancer can use all the various possible permutations and combinations possible in the tala system. The dancer first stamps on the right foot, followed by the second foot and then a jump on the heels on the third beat and finishing with stamping only the right foot on the fourth beat. This is repeated several times and creates the complex rhythmical structure that gives Bharatanatyam a distinctive identity.
6. The sixth adavu is known as tai te ta. In this particular adavu a dancer attempts to build movement by using only a single foot or leg in groups of three beats.
7. This adavu is known as di di tai and has almost sixteen classifications and is a classic example of how different permutations and combinations can be performed around a three beat structure. This adavu is often used to provide the climax ( tirmanams ) in Bharatanatyam. In its simplest form it involves the extension and contraction of a leg. The legs extend, contract and stamp the ground in line with the three beats. The arms meanwhile move around in circular patterns and several other movements.
8. This is known as the poi adavu which has movements which are soft and silent with graceful hops and jumps. There are several varieties of this adavu but it is distinguished by silent shifting of the position of the feet as opposed to the extension and contraction of the leg that is usually performed. Some of the jumps that are done in Bharatanatyam belong to this adavu .
9. This adavu is called ta dit dit tai and the arms provide variation while the feet are stamping in the ardhamandali position. When combined with the 7th adavu they produce some fantastic patterns.
Adavus differ from one dance family to another but the essential concepts of an adavu are diligently followed. > they produce some fantastic patterns.
Adavus differ from one dance family to another but the essential concepts of an adavu are diligently followed.

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