This is a wonderful article written by Maya Nanjundaswamy on Bharatantyam April 2003
Maya is a featured workshop instructor and student of this beautiful and ancient dance.

Bharatanatyam is a very revered and ancient classical dance form. It is the oldest classical dance form taught and practiced in India. It is essentially the Dance of mind & soul. It is extremely traditional and known for its grace and purity. It uplifts the dancer and the beholder to a higher level of spiritual consciousness.

The 3 basic elements of Bharatanatyam are Nritta, Nritya and Natya .

Nritta : Rhythmic Element. Nritya : Combination of Rhythm with Expression. Natya : Dramatic Element.

The general interpretation for the name is BHAva(expression) + RAga (music) + TAla(rhythm) + NATYAM(dance) = Bharatanatyam

Bharatanatyam is based on the theories of the books 'Natyasaasthram' and 'Abhinaya Darpanam'. The dance form is based on 'Adavu' (steps) and 'Hasthamudra' (hand gestures). The body is visualized as made of triangles one above and one below the torso. It is based upon a balanced distribution of weight and firm positions of lower limbs allowing the hands to cut into a line to flow around the body or take position or take positions that enhance the basic body form.

The Bharatanatyam dancer's repertoire is extensive. Both from literary and from sculptural evidence, it is fairly well-established that the dance was performed both as a solo and in groups. However, the present form of Bharatanatyam crystallized as a solo dance style about the 19th Century. The accompanying music is classical Carnatic. The themes are from Indian mythology, the epics and the Puranas. Apart from the above mentioned details the dancer is also coached extensively in theoretical aspects of the dance.