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Classical Dance Styles
Nurtured in the temples and courts of southern India since ancient times, Bharatanatyam is an artistic gem from Tamil Nadu - one of the oldest dance forms of India. Passed down as a living tradition from generation to generation, the art-form became a component of temple rituals, creating an integral spiritual role for dancers and musicians. In the early 20th century, a renewal of interest in India's cultural heritage prompted a rediscovery of the artform's beauty. Capturing the essence of the art form, the ancient dance treatise the "Abhinaya Darpanam" meaning the "Mirror of Gesture" states: where the hands go, the eye follows; where the eye goes, the mind goes; where the heart is lies the reality of being. Bharatanatyam is technically divided between three elements: "Nritta"- where body movements guide the interpretation of the rhythmic language, "Nritya" (or pure dance) - an elegant combination of rhythmic gait with technical body posturing, and "Natya" - the dramatic element of expression used to convey divine poetic meaning.
KUCHIPUDI, the classical dance form from Andhra Pradesh, evolved from a village of the same name, originally called Kuchelapuram, a hamlet in the Krishna district. Of interest, Kuchipudi was originally performed only by men from the Brahmin community; however, the dance form gradually expanded to include both sexes. The Kuchipudi art form is famous for its incorporation of a brass pot considered the "jeevatma" - or inner self, balanced on the performer's head, while the dancer performs complicated hand & foot movements on a brass plate considered the "paramatma" - or supreme consciousness.
MOHANIYATTOM, a classical dance form from Kerala, which often portrays feminine love in its myriad forms, derives its name from the divine enchantress "Mohini", a female form assumed by Lord Vishnu. Since Kathakali, another famous dramatic art-form from Kerala, was a jealously-guarded male preserve, Mohiniyattom was especially created for female dancers. Most of the components items of Mohiniyattom are similar to Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, though some differences of style are obvious. Compared to most other dance art-forms, Mohiniyattom emphasizes gestural and facial acting & the mudras (or hand gestures) are almost always same as those employed in Kathakali.