In the first half the traditional Indian dance of Bharatanatyam artists generally performs;
* Pushpanjali or Alaripu, Jatiswaram, Shabdam
In the second half:
* PadamAshtapadi or Tillana
Elements of Bharatnatyam have been described below:
Arangetram is a Tamil word. This is the first public performance of an artist. After learning Bharatnatyam under the guidance of an accomplished guru, this performance is the testing time for both the guru and the disciple as on this occasion, the public judges the guru's knowledge and the disciple's talent together. Hence, the guru decides when the disciple is ready for public appearance. At least ten to twelve years of training is necessary to give a commendable performance.
A recital begins with Alarippu. This is an invocation and performed to the rhythm of the drum. It is an example of pure, abstract dance which is executed through a number of elemental rhythmic patterns. The basic movements are introduced almost like introduction of chief notes of melodic scale, in ascending and descending order. The movements of neck, shoulder and arms are introduced with great charm. This is followed by the ardhamandali. The movements of all major and minor limbs are employed in their simplest forms. This is apparently the warming-up dance for the entire performance.
Jatisvaram is another example of a pure dance composition in which the performer weaves several patterns on a basic musical composition. Jatisvaram is the name of a musical composition which follows the rules of the svara jati in musical structure and consists of pallavi, anupallavi and charanam. It has no lines of poetry in it. The passages are important. The metrical cycle which guides the musician also guides the dancer. The dancer introduces for the first time full sequences of various types of adavus. The combinations are simple and the dancer attempts to present patterns only in one group of adavus. Both the first note of the melodic line, the first beat of the metrical cycle and the end of the dance sequence synchronize beautifully. The dance cadences are set to the full line of the svara and combinations of different svaras in the second half. The dance patterns depend on the nature and duration of the svara.
Each melody consists of twenty-four beats but the time interval and the pause position of the notes have variations. The dancer has to always keep in mind the exact treatment of the note in the melody. The musical pattern rules the pattern of the dancer. It will be observed that, in the first portion, there is general synchronization of the dancer's movements and the notes of the melodic line. In the second portion, there is a synchronization of the notes along with the movements of the dancer. The dancer can present as much as pure dance as she can in Jatisvaram. It provides the dancer opportunity for presenting a wide range of improvisation both in terms of the adavu sequences and rhythmic patterns.
Sabdam is a composition in Carnatic music. Here, the dancer performs to a song and introduces mime. The mime is simple and only the literal illustration of the word is presented through movement. The end sequences are of pure dance and serve as a bridge between the pure Nritta compositions and major composition of the varnam.
The dancer proceeds to deliver the varnam after performing all elements of dance, which is the most intricate. The varnams provides full scope to the dancer to improvise on a theme. The dancer starts by presenting cadences of tirmanams. They are woven in three tempos, making the dance very elaborate. In the introduction there should be harmony between the dancer, the singer and the drummer. Varnam has many levelled layers of the musical theme. The beginning of each pure dance sequence is understood by stamping the feet constantly which maintains the inner beat of the time cycle. Simultaneously the drummer prepares a particular rhythmic sequence for the next sequence. The combination of the toe-heel pattern accompanied with miming is the most challenging part of varnam.
The last part of the varnam is known as charanam. Here, the abhinaya is performed first to the sahitya and, finally, the Nritta sequences are performed to svara of the sahitya passages sung just prior to it before. The literary content of this musical composition is the description of a god, either Lord Vishnu or Lord Shiva, and the pallavi and the anupallavi describe many faces of the God. In the charanam, the devotee's, yearning for the god is described. Though the building up is slow and cautious, it invariably communicates a deep feeling of faith and adoration.
As far as technique is concerned the dancer is free to improvise on musical note and on the literary word. Dancer can also present through gestures other images related to but not contained in the word. The varnam helps to exploit the dancer's imagination. She executes the abhinaya portion with the aim to evoke Sthayi bhava. In the pure dance sequences the dancer has freedom within the limitations which has been set. She improvises on the svara patterns in a variety of ways.
There is a period of relaxation provided by the dancer herself. She presents padams. External literary content refers usually to a lady in love calling her lover. The dancer presents a type of heroine in a state of expectancy of union or separation. The allegorical content of these pieces are traced to the Bhakti movement. The literary imagery is so rich that a dancer without adequate background and training tends to execute them only superficially. A matured Indian Bharatnatyam dancer is provided training. The dancer can and sometimes does introduce other compositions such as kirtana or the svarajati the repertoire. The principle behind these compositions is the same as in the varnam, though the prominence varies.
Expressions are given foremost importance while performing these poems, since they need a lot of grace. The artist should be matured enough to understand the lyrics and the situation to show the rasas. The dancer can also perform the Devaranama instead of Ashtapati.
This item is a devotional piece where the lyrics are in praise of god, describing the God etc. This is a pure abhinaya item with almost no emphasis on Nritta. Usually the lyrics are in Kannada language. These songs are the compositions of great visionary like Purandharadaasa, Kanakadaasa, Vijayadaasa and Vyasaraaja to name a few. The compositions are popularly known as Daasa Sahitya. It is a devotional literature written in simple language understood by common man. It has made remarkable contribution to the spiritual and cultural upliftment of people by preaching philosophy of love, devotion and peaceful co-existence.
The recital concludes with a pure dance which known as the Tillana. This is a musical composition of mnemonics sung in a raga set to a particular metrical cycle. The dancer by this time reaches a degree of flexibility and gracefulness of movement. She fully develops here what she had introduced in the Alarippu. She starts with eye movement shifting to the neck movement, and then proceeding to the shoulder movement, to the erection of torso. Thereafter there are standing postures, the leg extensions, the pirouettes and the ardhamandali positions. All the tempos are used. Even semi circles are introduced in floor choreography. Finally, at a faster pace, the dancer ends her recital by a concluding eraddi or by a quick exit.
Most dance recitals of Bharatnatyam ended here a few years ago, however presently a different style is also used o end it which is the final shloka in Sanskrit. Nritta portion ends in the finale of the Tillana. The abhinaya portion ends with the gravity of a solemn shloka invoking god.
This was the most common sequence of a Bharatnatyam recital until the fifties of this century. Many changes have taken place since then. Interesting musical compositions have been used, the repertoire has been enlarged and the sequence has changed. The navasandhi and the sloka have regained popularity and some lesser prominent Jatisvaram, varnam and Tillana have been introduced.
These are poet Jayadeva's Sanskrit compositions called Geeta-govinda, an extremely romantic composition. It describes the love of Lord Krishna and Radha in twelve cantos containing twenty four songs. The songs are sung by Krishna or Radha or by Radha's maid. Each Canto is named differently considering Krishna's state of mind, like,
* Saamodadamodara - Joyful Krishna
* Aakleshakeshava - Careless Krishna
* Mugdhamadhusoodhana - Bewildered Krishna
* Snigdhamadhusoodhana - Tender Krishna
* Saakankshapundareekaksha - Longing Krishna
* Kuntavaikunta - Indolent Krishna
* Naagaranaaraayana - Cunning Krishna
* Vilakshalakshmeepatihi - Abashed Krishna
* Mandamukunda - Languishing Krishna
* Chaturachaturbhuja - Intelligent Krishna
* Saanandadamodara - Blissful Krishna
* Supreetapeetambara - Ecstatic Krishna
The process of constantly refreshing the tradition by either reviving older forms or by introducing new forms has kept the Bharatnatyam vital and healthy. Changes in repertoire are expected and it should be welcomed. The dance style has gained immense popularity during recent years.