BHARATANATYAM
became an Indian analogue to western classical dance. One of its qualities is universality. It is a classical art that not only gives us an entertainment and joy of life, but also carries a mental and spiritual education that serves the evolution of human consciousness. This way its similarities with yoga are very close. Bharatanatyam is one of the most evolved art form, that relates to all the aspects of human existence: body, psyche and the soul.
Body
Nritta means an abstract form. As we know it is a combination of various adavus (dance units) . All that serves to express pure joy and beauty. But not only. Arai mandi (half bent knees) is a basic position of Bharatanatyam. After years of practice one may discover, that the striking the floor with the feet plus wormed up body stimulate certain functions in the spinal cord. It is similar as the influence of Yoga asanas. As a result the consciousness of a dancer easily becomes focused and is being elevated slowly on a higher level. No wonder why the first two dance items Allarippu and Jatiswaram are purely abstract. They prepare a dancer for more subtle actions of Abhinaya (expression).
Psyche
Abhinaya or nritya is related to human psyche. It is an "expressional" aspect of dance. Its instruments are:

Sringara - Liebe
 
the language of gestures, movements of eyes, head, neck and facial expression and psyche. Here different mythological stories are being portrayed through dance compositions. The essence of Abhinaya is the theory of Bhava and Rasa (mood or feelings), that is the basic of Indian aesthetic. An artist "produces" within herself different moods, Navarasa ( 9 sentiments: love, laughter compassion, anger, valour, fear, disgust, wonder and peace) according to the story she dances. These are being shown through the facial expression. These feelings move the hearts of the audience, that for a moment becomes one with the performer.
Soul
Behind the world of feelings and moods rests the "seer", from which all this originated and where all comes back. The dancer created an illusion on stage and at the end, after the firework of a Thillana (concluding dance item) withdraws it all in Mangalam (final prayer). These three aspects, body psyche and soul flow together into the stream of the performance. Every movement has the essence of those three : "Where the hand goes, follows the eye, where the eyes go, follows the heart".

"Bharatanatyam and Brain" - article by Dr. Reinhold Keuler, MD specialist for Neurology, Psychiatry, Psychotherapy
Navarasa - Nine Sentiments shown by Prof. Balagopalanfrom Kalakshetra Dance Academy in Chennai

Alexandra Romanova - e-mail: dance(at)alexromanova.com