Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bharata Natyam

Recently, I went with Mom to see an Indian classical dance performance by one of my classmates. It was located in a Kannada cultural heritage center in central Bangalore. All of the signs were in Kannada and I realized how spoiled we had become living in a foreign country where English is very commonly spoken.

Indian classical dance, or Bharata Natyam, is usually performed by one person and the style includes lots of stamping feet and forming arms and hands into complicated positions. It is set to devotional music, often singing without very many instruments. The costumes that the dancers wear are flashy; with vibrant colors, flowers in their hair, and sometimes bells attached to their ankles that ring when they move. In the performance that we went to, there were four musicians sitting on pillows off to the side. One woman was singing (devotional songs in Kannada), one woman was clashing together small metal cymbal-like things, and there were two men: a drummer and a flutist.

Every dance is centered around one story. The very first dance that we saw was about Ganesha, since he is the god of beginnings. (See Beginnings and Political News.) The singer in the background tells the story and the different gestures the dancer act out the story. I bet if I could understand Kannada, I would be able to follow the story line very well and see how the dancing and the words are connected. However, Mom and I can’t understand Kannada, so after the performance my friend explained what a few motions from the dancing meant and how they connected to the story. For example, Lord Shiva has three eyes. Two of them are normal eyes. The other one sits in the middle of his forehead. Normally it is closed, but when he is very angry he opens his eyes and fire shoots out, burning everything he sees. In the dance, this was symbolized by flicking two fingers in front of her forehead (showing the opening of the eye) and moving them forward while waving them back and forth (showing the fire shooting out). To see an example of Bharata Natyam go to:

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