Bharathanatyam is a classical Indian dance form that had been in practice since thousands of years back as evidenced by several ancient Tamil literery works. It is exact in the sense that it places equal emphasis on the different aspects that go to make a dance, namely Bhava(expression), Raga(melody) and Tala(Rhythm). Natyam in Tamil means Dance and the prefix Bharata is commonly explained as an acronym composed of the first letters of Bhava, Raga and Tala. It is an art for eternity because of the outstanding renaissance work and also beacuse of the enduring and enthralling beauty of the art itself.
The main elements in this dance form are classified as Nritta, Nritya and Natya. Nritta refers to the pure form of dance comprising footwork to the rhythm or beat and is intended to be a delineation of graceful and artistic movements. Nritya places the emphasis on Rasa and Bhava through Abinaya(facial expressions) and gestures to convey certain meaning or message.The combination of Abhinaya and Nritta is called Nritya. Natya consists of Abhinaya gestures and dialogue which could be easily followed by the audience.
The art of Bharatanatyam as seen today had been handed down through the centuries by dance teachers called Koothiliar and ritualistic dancers called Devadasis.We should not forget the wonderful contribution made by Devadasis in preserving this beautiful art of Bharathanatyam and passing on the heritage to posterity.
Language is no barrier for Bharatanatyam, lyrics in any Indian language can be adopted and choreographed in this style. Bharatanatyam is always accompanied by Carnatic vocal music and instrumental music like mridangam, nadaswaram, flute, violin and veena. A colorful costume makes the artist's performance more graceful.