Bharatnatyam originates in Tamil Nadu which is also referred to as artistic yoga and Natya yoga. The name Bharatnatyam is derived from the word "Bharata" and thus associated with the Natyashastra. Though the style of Bharatnatyam is over two thousand years old, the freshness and richness of its essence has been retained even today.
The technique of human movement which Bharatnatyam follows can be traced back to the fifth Century A.D. from sculptural evidence. This classical dance has a mesmerizing effect as it uplifts the dancer and the beholder to a higher level of spiritual consciousness. It is a dancing style that comprises of Bhava, Raga, Tala, and Natya which reflect the real meaning of the Bharatnatyam.
Bharatanatyam is arguably the oldest and most traditional classical dance style which seem as a synthesis of philosophy, sculpture, music and literature. This dance got its name from Sage Bharata who wrote the Natya Shastra.
Bharatanatyam is an energetic dance from wherein the postures and balanced position, i.e. the weight of the body is placed squarely down the centre of the body. There is emphasis on the striking of the floor with the feet. There are jumps in the air as also pirouettes called bhramaris. There are movements done with the knees contacting the floor. These are called mandi adavus.
Bharatanatyam can be performed solo or in a group. The pure dance is called nritta and the expressive is nritya. The solo dancer uses various methods of story-telling to interpret the verses and stories she performs. The person who conducts the recital is called the natatuvanar,, who is generally the guru of the dancer. He or the plays the cymbals called nattuvangam. The other musicians are the vocalist, the mridangist or percussion player, of flutist, a violinist and a veena player.
One of the greatest performers of Bharatanatyam has been Balasaraswati who was influential in popularising the dance as much as Rukmini Devi Arundale. Balasaraswati was famous for her soulful renderings of abhinaya or mimetic piece, in which she not only danced but sang as well.