Bharatanatyam is the oldest and the most popular of Indian Classical dance forms and belongs to the South Indian state of Tamilnadu and dates back to more than 2000 years. It was systematically conveyed through a tradition called the Guru-Sishya Parampara. It was perfomed in the temples by Devadasis patronized by the kings and the more current form was revolutionized by the Tanjore Quartette (Chinnaiah, Ponnaiah, Sivanandam and Vadivelu) adding a rich repertoire and Smt Rukmini Devi Arundale popularized this artform internationally. It is an acronym that stands for Bha – Bhava (Expression), Ra – Raga (Melody) and Ta - Tala (Rhythm).
Bharatanatyam, the art of aesthetic perfection is the language of the soul. It is through a disciplined approach that this art puts forward a dedicated quest for philosophical insight. Music and poetry exist in time. Painting and architecture in space. But dance is the only "time–space art".
In nritta (pure dance) to the chosen time cycle and a raga (melody), a dancer executes patterns that reveal the architectonic beauty of the form with a series of dance units called jathis or teermanams. The torso is used as a unit, the legs are in a semi-plie form and the stance achieves the basic posture called araimandi. The nritta numbers include Alarippu, Jatiswaram and Tillana, which are abstract items not conveying and specific meaning except that of joyous abandon with the dancer creating variegated forms of staggering visual beauty. In nritya (expressive dance), a dancer performs to a poem, creating a parallel kinetic poetry in movement, registering subtle expressions on the face and the entire body reacts to the emotions, evoking sentiments in the spectator for relish - the rasa. The numbers are varnam, which has expressions as well as pure dance; padams, javalis and shlokas. The accompanying music is classical Carnatic.
The themes are from Indian mythology, the epics and the Puranas and can also incorporate modern themes.
Indian Dance can be classified into Classical and Folk. Indian folk dances are very unique to the region and is performed for various occasions, to celebrate the arrival of seasons, birth of a child, a wedding, festivals and some old social customs. The dances are simple but bursts with verve and vitality. Each form of dance has a specific costume. Most costumes are extraordinary with extensive jewels. The skill and the imagination of the dances influence the performance. They are generally passed on as an oral tradition and are modified to suit the imagination of the situation and dancer without any structured treatise. Shubanjali teaches traditional Folk dances of Indian like Kummi, Kolattam, Kavadi Chindu, Gypsy, Snake and Peacock.