According to Indian tradition the learning of an art, in particular the art of dancing is transmitted orally from master to disciple in a relationship comparable to the one between parent and child. This tradition is called Gurukula – to live with the master, to be part of his family. In present days this practice is increasingly less common. For many decades music and dance schools have opened throughout India, especially in the big cities. Nevertheless, the guidelines of traditional teaching remain unchanged and continue rooted in a tradition dating back several centuries which is at the core of Indian culture: the environment, domestic and country life, conquests and religion. <
The eight classical styles
There are eight styles of Indian classical dance: Bharata Nâtyam, Mohini Attam, Kathakali and Kuchipudi in the South; Odissi in the center; Kathak, Manipuri and Chhau in the North. Each style includes pure technical dance (nrita) and expressive dance (natya) which reflect episodes of the great Epics and mythology, as well as hymns and devotional poems. All these styles have a character of their own, but all of them without exception are based on the technical and aesthetic guidelines established by ancient treaties on dance and theatrical arts. In the expressive dance parts, the dancer, who is also an actress, shall use the “abhinaya”, the codified hand gestures and the facial expressions to “narrate” the texts sung by musicians.
The Bharata Nâtyam
In the past, the Bharata Nâtyam was executed by dancers assigned to the temples. It was known in ancient times as “Dasiyattam”, and keeps a tradition dating back two thousand years. The term Bharata Nâtyam dates to the end of the XVIII century and includes several aspects of a dance that was widely present in southern India. Just as western ballet or contemporary dance, this style also has different schools. The most famous and the most difficult one is “Pandannallur”, characterised by an ample variety of movements, rhythms and sculptural poses. This school also requires a vigorous execution of wide movements, an infallible sense of rhythm and perfect linear stops. This technique is also integrated into expressive dances.