Monday, 18 July 2011

Bharatanatyam & Beyond

Nova Bhattacharya (Photo: John Launer)
Bharatanatyam & Beyond (India) – Hmn I just discovered the “(India)” on the Volcano website! Yes, technically bharatanatyam originated in India.  I suppose that technically I too originated in India since my parents met there, (although conception definitely happed in Halifax, Nova Scotia).

But back to bharatanatyam...


Why does my class makes sense in the context of a theatre conservatory? 

There is a narrative element of bharatantyam. Abhinaya is a concept in Indian dance and drama derived from Bharata's Natya Shastra. Although now, the word has come to mean 'the art of expression,' etymologically it derives from Sanskrit abhi- (towards) + ni- (take), so literally it means a “taking towards” (the audience), or “transmission."  Sounds like a perfect fit for theatre folks... 
Nova Bhattacharya (Photo: Cylla Von Tiedemann)
One of the main pillars of my own choreographic research has been bringing bharatanatyam’s abhinaya technique into a more abstract realm. Although abhinaya is often equated with storytelling or mimesis, for me, it is inherently beyond a linear narrative.  It is about performance, about communicating with the audience, about connection. 

So my workshop will provide a practical introduction to the theatrical and mimetic aspects of bharatanatym (and yes, we’ll do some actual dance steps as well!).  We’ll go through facial exercises and expressions and the gestural language of the form.  We’ll investigate theory, practice storytelling, explore various character and emotional viewpoints as well as the archetypes of the form.  Then, the next day, we’ll blow it all apart and see what happens.


Bharatanatyam is a classical dance style from southern India which evolved out of street, court and temple dances.

In the early 19th century four brothers known as the Thanjavur quartet codified, catalogued, and developed the form which is recognized for its two streams of abstract and narrative dance.  
Nova Bhattacharya (Photo: Dianna Last)
My own training in bharatanatyam is entirely in the practical realm (I’m a dancer, not a scholar) and took place here, in Canada.  My last classical concert was in 2000.  Since then I have been focused on the creation of work based in the technique but placed in a contemporary aesthetic.  I’m not the only one: diaspora artists all over the world are creating work based in the form and the work of artists in India continues to evolve its expression as well.  All this to say that maybe Bharatanatyam & Beyond would best be described as originating in India AND Canada.

No comments:

Post a Comment