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Essay: What Is Bharatanatyam?
Issue : 203
Published on : August, 2001



3 Sruti Box

7 News & Notes

13 Main Feature

19 Special Feature

33 Obituary

35 Dance Space

39 The Record Rack

43 Brief Notes

47 The Whispering Gallery

48 Editor's Note

Front Cover: Bronze idol of Nataraja in Konerirajapuram, Tanjavur

News & Notes
PAC's 20th Talavadyotsav

Bangalore's Percussive Arts Centre (PAC) recently conducted its 20th Taalavadyotsav in Bangalore, jointly with the J.S.S. Sangeetha Sabha of Mysore.

PAC is the brainchild of Bangalore K. Venkataram. Founded mainly to promote percussive arts, it has been striving hard to highlight the role of laya and tala in Indian music. For the last 20 years, it has been conducting the annual Talavadyotsav, during which research papers and lecdems are presented, senior musicians are honoured and talented youngsters encouraged.

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Main Feature
Music & Dance For The People Of Delhi

Smothering pollution and transport nightmares have made attending cultural programmes too demanding an effort for most urbanites after a long day's work. This is one of the reasons that audiences for classical music and dance programmes are dwindling by the day.

Furthermore, culture which is compartmentalised and separated from the totality of life loses some of its attraction for the common man; he sees it as elitist and out of his reach. Our educational curriculum has no place for study of culture, while the popular media tend to trivialise it. Even the minimal cultural literacy of a section of school and college students, would be missing except for the exposure to facets of Indian performing arts given to it by SPIC-MACAY.

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Special Feature
What Is Bharatanatyam?

Historically, Bharatanatyam is the dance-form christened as such by the Music Academy of Madras in the early nineteen thirties. It was known earlier as Dasiattam, Sadir or Karnatakam.

It thrived in the south of India. Then it spread to other parts of the country. Now it is a world art and heritage, flourishing particularly in the Indian diaspora.

Its grammar and aesthetics are today traced by many to Natya Sastra and to later works like Ahhinaya Darpana. However, while we do not properly know what the dance was like before early nineteenth century, what we know today as Bharatanatyam has developed from the shape it was given by the Tanjavur Quartet. And this legacy was preserved in practice mostly by the guru-s and performers belonging to the Isai Velalar community of Tamil Nadu.

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Dance Space
New Directions In Dance: A Comment

I am so glad that, finally, after 17 years, someone has called cultural colonialism what it is. I wholeheartedly agree with Pattabhi Raman's statement at the Indo-European Dance Encounter, on the basis of my own experience in 1984. However, without making apologies for Georg Lechner, I would like to place a few issues in perspective.

First, I would like to address the so-called need for emptying oneself as described by Linke and Hoffman, as reported in Smti 200. (Now what does Rasa theory say about the satvik performer who is devoid/emptied of ego...?) [Linke called for the emptying of prior knowledge, experience and conditioning, not of ego—Editor]. After years of obediently trying to experience that futile approach, I am irked when those who teach choreography as I now do, demand that their students empty themselves. It is BS. We are what we have seen, felt and thought. Our bodies have been imprinted with the movements and body attitudes of those around us, whether we realise it consciously or not. (Check Susan Foster, in Writing Dancing, if you like this concept of movement as samskara. I love it.) I would say, that, in actuality, from my own obseivations of watching 35 years of Modern dance, there is constant repetition of movement ideas without acknowledgement (at the public relations level) of predecessors both within India and in Europe, Canada and the U.S.

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