British Bharatanatyam: What's in a name?
- Shrikant Subramaniam
e-mail: sriks26@hotmail.co.uk

February 6, 2008

As a student of Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya, we learnt Bharatanatyam as a cultural, spiritual and aesthetic form, along with its desi/margi1 histories, that although Bharatanatyam is a solo classical dance originating from Tamilnadu, a state within South India, it was part of a pan-Indian history because of its links with Sanskrit language and history.

This double history, including the regional (Tamil) and the pan-Indian (Sanskrit) is communicated visually in each and every performance of Bharatanatyam, performed in India and also in the world at large. The form is easily identifiable because of its stylistic features. These include the half-sitting posture (araimandi), bent elbows with palms facing downwards, costumes (a silk dhoti for men and a kanchivaram silk sari stitched as a fan-costume for women), mnemonic syllables (sollukattu) and the accompanying poetic texts composed in several South Indian Carnatic ragas.

But why is Indian Bharatanatyam called as 'British South Asian dance'? Perhaps enrolling in the MA South Asian Dance Studies at Roehampton University would help me understand the differences between Indian and British Bharatanatyam. The term, 'South Asian Dance' coming into circulation and Indian dancers performing Bharatanatyam today in the UK being described as South Asian dancers are some of the questions I wish to explore in this particular essay.

The cultural /textual identity of Bharatanatyam
The art of Bharatanatyam has its own rich poetry of multi-lingual compositions. The solo items taught at Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya were compositions penned in Sanskrit and Tamil. Fundamental to our training were the study of Sanskrit texts such as the Natyashastra of sage Bharata (3rd century B.C to 6th century A.D), Abhinayadarpanam of Nandikeshvara (c.1000) and the Tamil texts of Tolkappiyam (Sangam literature) and Silappadikaram (ca.600A.D).

Bharatanatyam as an oral Tamil form emerged from the Sampradaya traditions. Dr. Malati Agnisweran, Dr. Meenakshi Iyer, Prof. CV Chandrasekhar, guru V P Dhananjayan always provided instruction in Tamil in their dance-teaching. My non hereditary teachers used Tamil terminologies such as Tattamettu adavu, Kudittamettu adavu, pacca adavu etc. Reverence to the teacher was a fundamental concept and this centrality is emphasised in Sanskrit slokas that we recite everyday in our training.2

However, it was Bharata's Natyshastra that received importance in the dance pedagogy.. The technical terms for various movements of the thighs (uru karma), shanks (jangha karma), and feet (pancha pada vidhana) were juxtaposed with the adavus of Bharatanatyam. For example, udghatitta, a technical term mentioned in the 4th chapter of the Natyashastra titled as tandavalakshanam can be explained as 'standing on the fore-part of the feet and then touching the ground with the heels'3 and is quite similar to the style of rendering a kudittamettu adavu in Bharatanatyam practice. Special importance was given to learning Bharata's aesthetic theory known as the 'Rasa Sutra' which was frequently emphasised in various theory classes. This theory of rasa is perceived as being fundamental not just to Bharatanatyam but to all the traditional and classical arts in India (Vatysayan). The rasa sutra4 is a perfect combination of a dramatic cause (vibhava), dramatic effect (anubhava) and transitory emotional states (vyabhicari bhavas) which provides an aesthetic experience in the spectator.5

The sutras thus stipulate that the dancer/actor must not simply imitate real-life situations. Through various dramatic causes or determinants and their voluntary and involuntary overt expressions, a dancer/actor should communicate a particular story to evoke emotional involvement in the spectator. The spectator who is able to appreciate the dance in an ideal manner is described as a sahridaya (the one with a sympathetic sensibility, the one who shares similar emotions portrayed by the dancer/actor) on the stage. But, these emotions are not real. They are dramatised and thus enjoyable. The spectator also understands the meaning of different gestures, meaning of the poetical text and is thus able to relish/enjoy (rasasvada) a dance performance.

The history of Bharatanatyam as a part of a rich Tamil culture goes back to the history of the ancient Tamil classical texts of the Sangam age. According to Bharatanatyam scholar Nirmala Ramachandran, "The Sangam epoch has been assigned to the period commencing with the 5th Century BC and ending with the 4th Century AD. The Sangam age in Tamil Literature was a period of great literary glory never to be surpassed in the history of any literature whatsoever. It was the production of a colossal volume of Tamil poetry in its pristine purity. The age was a period when the arts such as dance and music and the sciences flourished alike, when the people obtained all social amenities and when far flung trade and commerce secured to the Tamils prosperity and power. The second century of the Christian era is called the 'Golden Age' in Tamil letters."

Bharatanatyam figures importantly in the third century classic of 'Silappadikaram.' This epic literature deals preponderantly with music and dance and describes the various grammatical and technical rules defining dance and music (Ramachandran, 1996). 6

Dance scholar Avanthi Meduri has explained how the early pioneers of Bharatanatyam in the 1930s including Rukmini Devi (1908-1984) and E Krishna Iyer (1897-1968) celebrated this double reed history of Bharatanatyam in their performance. Most professional dancers trained in India are aware of this double Sanskrit and Tamil history. They give voice to it in seminars and speak about it in training. Practitioners like Lakshmi Vishwanathan, Chitra Visweswaran, Sudharani Raghupathy and Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam as early as the 1970s, provided lectures on Natyashastra, Silappadikaram and its connection with Bharatanatyam. They located a double-reed Sanskrit/Tamil history for Bharatanatyam in their performances. However, the major dissemination of this double reed history occurred in the late 1970s.

Many upper-class immigrants with science and technical degrees migrated to countries such as UK, North America and Canada to work in computing and engineering fields. These upper class immigrants were mainly men, and they brought their wives along with them to the UK and North America (Janet O Shea - 2007). These immigrant dancers like Hema Rajagopalan and Viji Prakash, established their Bharatanatyam schools in the UK, North America, Canada and Australia. They disseminated the Tamil and the Sanskrit history of Bharatanatyam to the diaspora (personal correspondence with Meduri, 2007)7. Many Bharatanatyam dancers, who graduated from Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya in Mumbai in the early 1990s, established their schools in the UK and America. One of them, Jaya Ganapathy, established her school in Yorkshire, UK in 1996 where she continues to impart training in Bharatanatyam and also teaches the Sanskrit history and Tamil history of Bharatanatyam. While some teachers emphasise on the Tamil history, others underscore the Sanskrit history, but most dancers in the diaspora are aware of this double history of Bharatanatyam because this history is inscribed in the form of Bharatanatyam and its repertoire.8

Indian Bharatanatyam re-emerges with a new name: 'British Bharatanatyam / British South Asian dance genre'
When Bharatanatyam dancers immigrated to the UK in the late 1970s they had to rename their Indian dance forms as South Asian dance. Scholars like Alessandra Royo Lopez (1997), Ann David (2005), Stacey Pricket (2004) have argued that South Asia is not a new name because Indian dance forms including Bharatanatyam were always known as South Asian Dance in Britain. Yet this name was one among the many names used to describe Indian dance forms which were also known by other names such as ethnic, oriental, exotic, Asian dance forms in the 1970s. When I interviewed Mira Kaushik, the director of the Akademi (8th May 2007), she suggested that the term 'South Asian dance' was used for Bharatanatyam by the Akademi which was predominantly funded by the Arts Council of Britain. Akademi was established with an aim to promote the excellence of Indian classical dance forms in Britain. When the institution was first founded in 1979, it was called the National Academy of Indian Dance. In 1988 the 'national' was dropped and in 1997 the name became Akademi (South Asian Dance in the UK). Various organizations such as Kadam9 and Sampad10 which are predominantly funded by the Arts Council of Britain, started to use this term in the late 1990s.

Since the name was there to stay, Akademi organised a conference in London in 2004 titled 'No Man's Land: Exploring South Asian-ness' in the UK' to discuss the usefulness of the term. On this occasion, dance scholar Andree Grau presented a paper, entitled 'Sheltering Sky: Negotiating Identity through South Asianness.' In her paper Grau states, "Dancers and arts officers coined the label 'South Asian dance' probably in the late 1980s in the UK to replace the term 'Indian dance,' a term widely accepted despite the fact that it was reductionist, and simplified the complex Indian situation with its many cultures, religions, languages and dance systems…Creating a label that was further generalising was done for political reasons: practitioners argued that the dance systems falling under the category were not practiced in India alone, and they felt that a more generic term would be more appropriate by being somewhat more neutral. Just as the term contemporary dance is a generic term that overlooks the differences that exist, for example, between Graham and Release techniques and instead recognizes the similarities of ways of making sense of the body in terms of aesthetics, or of apprehending space and music within these techniques, South Asian dance similarly irons out differences and foregrounds similarities" (Grau, 2004). The usefulness of the South Asian term for Bharatanatyam is that it is broad, generic and homogenous enough to iron out subtle differences in style (what are known as banis), and enables the unification, standardization and neutralization of Bharatanatyam in the UK amongst the south Asian diasporic community.

Catherine Hale (2004) states that the term was also meant perhaps to "iron out the manifold forms, roots, artistic lineages and regional affiliations and promote a pan-Asianness." The reasoning was that if Indian Bharatanatyam was rechristened as 'South Asian dance' it would reach out to the broader immigrant community and enable the widespread dissemination of Bharatanatyam in Britain. South Asian dance is an appropriate term because different ethnic and national groups from South Asia - India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Nepal could all find a place within the new name. Indian immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa, who were practising different variations of Indian classical and folk dances in the place of their origin, could also find a place for themselves in the new conceptualization. "If Bharatanatyam was given the label 'South Asian dance' it would enable a prolific and a burgeoning growth of Bharatanatyam practitioners in Britain and a Bangladeshi or a Pakistani would not feel embarrassed in learning an Indian art form," says Anusha Subramanyam (2007).

Suffice it to say that the South Asian name attached to Indian Bharatanatyam is both useful and problematic. It is problematic because in the practice, the dance continues to be taught as an Indian dance form but when discussed in seminars and conferences it is labelled as 'British South Asian dance.' Stuart Hall (1994) argues that the cultural identity of an immigrant in the British diaspora is fragmented. But one can argue equally that so is the case with Bharatanatyam as a classical art form. While Tamils from India and Sri Lanka perceive Bharatanatyam as a spiritual and a cultural art form, there are some crucial differences in the way Bharatanatyam is taught in the Tamil temples and community centres.

British Bharatanatyam - A spiritual and a cultural form
For the Tamil and Srilankan diasporic community, Bharatanatyam is staged as a cultural performance in the temples. They celebrate Bharatanatyam's glorious Tamil history through such cultural performances. Ann David states that out of seven London temples, three temples offer regular Bharatanatyam classes - the Shree Ganapathy Temple in Wimbledon, the London Sri Murugan Temple in East Ham, and the Sri Thiruthanigai Murugan temple in Surbiton. At the Ganapathy Wimbledon temple, written and spoken Tamil is taught along with Hinduism, yoga, Carnatic music, Bharatanatyam and training in playing classical Indian instruments such as the violin, veena, mridangam, flute. For the Tamils and Srilankans, a Bharatanatyam performance in the Shree Ganapathy temple in Wimbledon serves as a cultural identity marker and an emblem of Tamil nationality (David, 2005).

The Bharatanatyam taught at the Sri Ammanakshi temple in Toothing, South London is mainly conducted in Tamil and the teacher, Meenakshi Thyagarajan, an alumni from the Kalai Kaveri College situated in Thiruchirappali, Tamilnadu seldom uses English as a medium of instruction (personal correspondence, 2007). When I interviewed the students from the Tamil and Srilankan diasporic community at the temple, they seemed to be unaware of Bharatanatyam performances at other community centres and at the mainstream venues. They were involved only in the cultural performances organised in the temple. I also noted that most of the syllabi used are written in Tamil and the dance classes taught in this temple is predominantly in Tamil. The Sanskrit and pan-Indian history of Bharatanatyam discussed in the beginning, is simply edited out, or not acknowledged.

In addition to temples, Unnikrishnan teaches Bharatanatyam at the Malayalam Association in East Ham and Anusha Subramanyam teaches at the Maida Vale Abercon Church hall in London. In both these venues, Unnikrishnan and Anusha transmit traditional values embodied in the dance. At the beginning of every class, reverence is offered both to the teacher and the Lord Nataraja, the supreme deity of Bharatanatyam, through Sanskrit and Tamil sloka-s, drawn from the text of Abhinayadarpanam. Although Tamil Sirlankans and Tamil diaspora students from India attend classes in Bharatanatyam offered at the Malayalam Association centre and in Maida Vale Abercon Church hall, it must be noted that here the instruction is not exclusively Tamil but Sanskrit sloka-s from the Abhinayadarpanam are inserted into the teaching.

Thus, in the temples the teaching of Bharatanatyam is predominantly in Tamil. There is no emphasis on the Sanskrit history. In the community centres the case is different. Bharatanatyam teachers such as Unnikrishnan and Anusha Subramanyam provide instruction in Tamil and impart knowledge in Bharatanatyam's Sanskrit history. To sum up, Bharatanatyam is practised as a regional form in the temples of London and as a pan- Indian form at the community centres. However, the production of Bharatanatyam is different in the mainstream.

British Contemporary Bharatanatyam: A new aesthetic in mainstream venues
Bharatanatyam practised in the temples and in the various community centres was associated with a strong ethnic and religious allegiance. Such a religious allegiance had no scope for providing Bharatanatyam with a professional status in the main stream venues. In the mainstream venues such as Sadler's Wells and South Bank theatre, Bharatanatyam is called as contemporary dance. Bharatanatyam is articulated by dancers through the western notions of classicism. In order to be a part of the native British public arena, Bharatanatyam had to undergo massive changes in the music, costumes, vocabulary, stagecraft and the themes which could fulfil the interests of not only Indian audiences but also attract a wider south Asian and British audience. This pressure for Bharatanatyam practitioners in Britain to engage with hybridity and meet western standards of performance led to the creation of provocative work (Lopez, 2004).

Such provocative works are created by Mavin Khoo and Shobana Jeyasingh, who have carved a name for themselves as contemporary dancers for the mainstream British audience. Mavin Khoo's notion of contemporary Bharatanatyam is grafted on Balanchine's principles of neo-classicism and Shobana Jeyasingh eschews the boundaries of Indian dance classicism rooted in the Sanskrit texts such as the Natyashastra, Abhinayadarpanam, Sangitaratnakara, Balaramabharatam. Fundamentally Bharatanatyam has a detailed exploration of abhinaya elucidated within the context of Bhava and Rasa. The Sanskrit manuals Natyashastra and Abhinayadarpanam expound the technique of mukhaja abhinaya (facial expression) in voluminous detail.

Abhinaya literally means to carry the meaning of the poetic content to the audience. Traditionally a Bharatanatyam dancer would narrate different stories drawn from different Hindu religious myths, shifting from one character to another. The dancer would improvise lyrics, playing on words and utilise free association of ideas and images. This is done by a combination of facial expressions, hand gestures and body movement. At the same time it is not a literal rendition of mythological archetypes and it is a part of the dancer's training to become an actor. Otherwise the presentation can become a catalogue of empty expressions and gestures.11 But a conspicuous effort is made by the South Asian dance practitioners to reconstruct this notion of classicism. Importance is given to strident and raucous movements of the whole body rather than the expressive gestures and facial expressions. At the same time, pure dance movements are used to convey emotions in various choreographic pieces.

To explain this point, I shall first focus my attention on the works of Mavin Khoo, a British South Asian contemporary Bharatanatyam dancer who creates works juxtaposing Bharatanatyam movement vocabulary and ballet technique, and explicitly acknowledges his global position through his understanding of issues of classicism in Bharatanatyam and classicism in Ballet. By combining both the aesthetics, Khoo has created a new aesthetic concept that has garnered critical acclaim from the mainstream audience. This new aesthetic concept is based on the quintessential and ineluctable structure of various bodily movements and it rigorously tries to minimise every intrinsic quality of expression on the face.12 Suffice to say that Khoo draws his new aesthetic idea from Balanchine's notion of classicism which is exceedingly austere as it calls for revealing 'only the bare-bones' of the body to the audience (Levin, 1983).

In his production 'Images of the Varnam13, which was premiered in 2001 at the Royal Opera House in London, Khoo focused on the mastery of filigree detail of a pure dance form of Bharatanatyam (nritta) juxtaposed with the stretchy symmetry of classical ballet and created a blunt physicality of the form possessed with muscular power and sheer athleticism.14 Similarly in his 'Lunar,' Khoo combines the austerity of the form in ballet and Bharatanatyam. By juxtaposing excruciatingly fast based 'tirmanams' of Bharatanatyam with ethereal lightness in his leaps,15 extensions, fluidity of movements from the classical vocabulary of ballet, and by covering his face with a white mask Khoo once again accentuated his aesthetics of the physical form (musculature of the body) in his contemporary Bharatanatyam.16 Another striking example of brusque physicality is seen in the prologue of Parallel Passions17 where Khoo starts slapping the floor with tatta adavus of Bharatanatyam which is juxtaposed with the pointe work of Alex Newton. This is followed with Gemini in which a 'non-identical stylistic twinship' between Ballet and Bharatanatyam continues shedding light on geometrical lines and technical prowess (Roy, 2004).18

Similarly, Shobana Jeyasingh, an acclaimed British South Asian dancer/choreographer lays emphasis on Bharatanatyam's movement lexicon and avoids the dramatic modes of narratives and lyrics in her contemporary works. Jeyasingh states that classicism in Bharatanatyam for her is made up of geometric shapes, a series of triangles in space and she intends to manipulate "this classical language with its objective technique and almost mechanical and impersonal quality to introduce a degree of idiosyncrasy" (1990). Jeyasingh disagrees with the whole philosophy of Indian dance theatre (including the concept of mukhaja abhinaya) and taking the form stripped out of its lyrical content, she finds her own way of employing it. To illustrate this point, I have discussed a few instances from her choreographic work 'Duets with Automobiles' from a formalist point of view. This piece of work, choreographed in 1993, was considered to be a groundbreaking contemporary work using Bharatanatyam vocabulary. Perceived as a collaboration between Shobana Jeyasingh and Terry Braun, this contemporary work fundamentally uses Bharatanatyam adavus as metaphors to express an Indian woman's identity in an urban metropolitan London city. Through various pure dance structures in parallel along with geometrical and mathematical structures espoused by the dancers, the form of Bharatanatyam was examined in detail.

Maintaining an emphasis on form and abstraction, 'Duets with Automobiles'19 certainly marks a new phase of understanding movement vocabulary in contemporary Bharatanatyam. Jeyasingh has used the vocabulary of Bharatanatyam adavus (Nritta) as an analogue for expressing the theme rather than the hermetic mime tradition of hand gestures and eye movements. The three dancers had immobile facial expressions but various pure dance movements were dissected, repeated, and performed in different directions in a sparkling and a crystalline geometric pattern to emote different sentiments. The piece opens with a dancer showing her back to the camera and St. Paul's Cathedral20 is seen through a window frame. With an erect torso and the feet placed close to each other the woman gradually looks at the camera with a serious expression but turns her face back in a very sharp manner. The dancer continues to show her back to the camera and runs her hand and forearm along the window ledge. A growing fascination to admire St. Paul's Cathedral in London is further nuanced with a gesture (Pataka hasta taken from the classical vocabulary of Bharatanatyam) running across the window ledge a second time. The dancer then turns her face to the camera and mimes a lotus with her palms but continues to maintain a very serene expression on the face. This particular action is performed very slowly exaggerating every turn of the palm to create the visual effect of a lotus blossoming. Finally the camera shifts the attention to the first scene of a woman beholding the sight of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Interestingly, the dancer imbues an expression of amazement and wonder at the architectural grandeur of St. Paul's Cathedral metaphorically through the motif of a blossoming lotus without any kind of mobility on the face.

This contemporary piece of work continues with an enhanced series of jathi-s recited in the manner of mnemonic syllables in the background. In the beginning of this particular section, a single dancer segues from quick, staccato movements, head turns and accelerated footwork, to slow creeping leg extensions as one variation of an adavu interlaced in the next adavu corresponding to the mnemonic syllables of the jathi. Quite overpoweringly, the focus then shifts to three dancers who execute the same pure dance sequence albeit in an exquisitely lucid fashion. They create geometric patterns in the space through various Bharatanatyam adavus.21 In the latter part of the choreography the dancers, after a series of harsh stamping on the wooden and marble floors in the plie position (araimandi position), take their respective positions caressing and hugging the pillars. Surprisingly, even while caressing the pillars the dancers eliminate any kind of facial expression.

Jeyasingh argues that these pure dance movements projected by the dancers and executed within the building structures of London express certain empowered notions of an 'urban identity for Indian womanhood' who epitomizes the female energy of a Yakshi (a female-tree spirit in classical Indian sculpture) and this same energy continues to thrive among the urban women in metropolitan cities.22 The hugging and caressing of the pillars suggested metaphorically an affinity for a contemporary urban life. The strength and power of a metropolitan woman was once again executed in the concluding part of the piece where the dancers with clenched wrists (Musthi hasta) directly thrust towards the camera indicate a sense of a pure intrepid urban Indian woman.

Thus, through this formalist analysis of these choreographic pieces by Mavin Khoo and Shobana Jeyasingh some might argue that contemporary Bharatanatyam projects a particular kind of classicism. Fundamentally it is nritta classicism where the emphasis is more on the technique of the form and the emphasis of force and physical energy in that particular technique of rendering various pure dance movements. This enabled such British South Asian dancers/choreographers to communicate their central theme without facial expressions. At the same time by breaking the tyranny of the frontal orientation (as seen in the Duets with Automobiles) and the imperative of balanced symmetry gutted out (as seen in the various works of Mavin Khoo) contemporary Bharatanatyam takes on an assertive independence that could reach out to a wider British audience in the mainstream.

Conclusion
This essay has discussed the cultural/textual identity of Bharatanatyam in India. But this identity has changed in the UK with the influx and the prolific population of South Asian diasporic community. Bharatanatyam, renamed as British Bharatanatyam or 'British South Asian dance,' is a representation of two forms. On the one hand, Bharatanatyam was (and still is) perceived as a timeless reminder of an ancient spiritual tradition among the Indian Tamil diaspora and the Srilankan diaspora in Britain. However, the Srilankan and the Indian Tamil diaspora in the temples also try to stifle the identity of Bharatanatyam as a regional form discarding its pan-Indianness. Whilst this problem continues to persist in the temples, Bharatanatyam is celebrated as a pan-Indian form in the community centres. But Bharatanatyam's pan-Indian significance and its classicism rooted in the ancient texts of Sanskrit and Tamil literature is rarely given due consideration in the mainstream, by the native British audience. The practitioners in order to carve a niche for themselves in the mainstream, in order to receive funding for their art form and to serve as interlocutors for a wider British audience, had to create choreographic works based on western notions of classicism which were devoid of any kind of emotional significance given to the physiognomy.

I shall conclude this essay with an interesting narrative from my own experience as a professional dancer in the UK. For my Bharatanatyam performance slated for a Sri Lankan diasporic community, I was asked to perform only Tamil compositions such as Adum Chidambaramo,23 Manatil uruthi vendum24 and Srinivasa Thiruvenkatamudaiya25 and the very word Bharatanatyam' is spelt with a 'th' (Bharathanatyam) in the invitation thus laying a trenchant emphasis on its regional identity. In the week after, for my Bharatanatyam performance for a wider south Asian diasporic audience at the Church Wilson Hall in north London, I was requested to perform to the lyrics of India's national anthem 'Vande mataram' thus laying emphasis on Bharatanatyam's pan-Indianness. For a contemporary Bharatanatyam performance at the South Bank theatre in London, the very English theme was 'No male egos.' Bharatanatyam in the UK does not just have one identity but many. It does not belong to one Indian diasporic community but to many. And the professional dancer in order to survive and flourish must learn to negotiate this landscape of shifting meanings, and histories in the UK.

Acknowledgements
I would like to thank Anusha Subramanyam, Avanthi Meduri, Mira Kaushik, Chitra Sundaram and Unnikrishnan for giving me their valuable comments on what is understood by 'British Bharatanatyam / South Asian dance' in London.


1 The word margi means the authorised or the ideal path. The word marga suggests that dance scholars saw certain styles as the authorised, mainstream forms of dance. The Sanskrit tradition is called as the margi practice of an art-form. But there were also other forms of dance, forms of dance that were known only in particular regions. Such forms of dance were called as desi traditions. They indicated a local origin and currency (Mandakranta Bose, 2001: p53).

2 Guru bhrama guru Vishnu guru devo maheshvarah guru sakshat parapbrahman tasmi shri guru ve namah'. Translated it means I bow down to my teacher who represents the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

3 Bharata Muni, The Natyashastra, edited and translated by Manmohan Gosh volume 1 (Calcutta : Manish Granthalaya Private Limited, 1967: pg 116).

4 The rasa sutra in Sanskrit: 'Vibhava, anubhava ,vyabhicari samyogat rasa nishpatih'.

5 Chapter eight 'Rasa sutra' in Bharata's Natyashastra (edited and translated by Manmohan Gosh. Text: Vol 1 (Calcutta: Manisha Granthalaya Private Limited, 1967).

6 For further information please refer to, http://www.tamilnation.org/culture/dance/

7 For further information refer to Meduri, Avanthi's article (2007) in DRJ.

8 The repertoire of solo items in Bharatanatyam consist of an array of compositions in Sanskrit and Tamil.

9 Kadam is a leading dance organization started in 1995 in the eastern region of England (Bedfordshire).It was started with an aim to promote South Asian dance and enhance the understanding of South Asian dance to a wider society in Britain within an artistic and educational context.

10 Sampad is a leading agency in Birmingham which was started in 1996 with an aim of appreciating and promoting diverse art forms from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Srilanka.

11 Khan, Naseem 'Who is afraid of abhinaya?' in Dance theatre Journal, Vol 13 Summer 1996, pg 45-47.

12 Bharata, the presiding author of the Natyashastra has enumerated various movements of the minor limbs such as movements of the eyeballs (tara bheda), eyebrows (bhru bheda) eyelids (puta bheda), nostrils (nasa bheda), mouth (asyaja bheda), chin (chibuka bheda) and the cheeks (ganda bheda) but none of these movements were utilised to communicate in contemporary Bharatanatyam.

13 Mavin Khoo created this work for himself along with two dancers from the Royal Ballet. The varnam is a South Indian musical component being central to the Bharatanatyam repertory. Sumasaayaka, the varnam Khoo had chosen is one of the greatest musical compositions of its time (Khoo, 2003).

14 I draw this argument from a 1min video clip of the piece 'images in the varnam' on Mavin khoo's website, www.mavinkhoo.co.uk

15 This concept of ethereal lightness in leaps was adopted by Khoo (2003) based on Balanchine's notion of a perched flight .(please read , Balanchine's formalism written by David Michael Levin (1983: pg35).

16 The Guardian review (2001) on the piece.

17 Parallel Passions was an anthology of several solo pieces which was premiered on 12th November 2003 at the Linbury Studio Theatre, London.

18 Pulse review (Spring 2004: pg13) penned by Sanjoy Roy

19 Duets with Automobiles was commissioned by the Arts Council and the BBC and broad cast in 1993. The dancers make use of Office Buildings as their space for performance in the film.

20 St. Paul's Cathedral is a historical national monument which also represents a part of the British Cultural heritage.

21 The dancers execute a series of Bharatanatyam adavus such as tat tai ta ha adavus, sarikkal adavus, visharu adavus, kudittamettu adavus taken from the classical vocabulary of Bharatanatyam but expressed without eye movements (dristhi bheda).

22 'Hybridity and Nomadic Subjectivity in Shobana Jeyasingh's 'Duets with Automobiles' written by Valerie A Bringinshaw (2001: p106).

23 The lyrics of this particular composition are in Tamil penned by the legendary Tamil freedom fighter Subramania Bharatiyar

24 This is a Tamil composition in Raga Bhairavi written by Subramania Bharatiyar based on principles in life.

25 This is a Tamil composition penned in the early 20th century by legendary composer Papanasam Sivam in Raga Hamsanandi extols the greatness of Lord Vishnu, the Sustainer of the Universe among the Hindu Pantheon.


Shrikant Subramaniam is currently pursuing his MA degree in South Asian dance studies at the University of Roehampton. The above article was a part of his MA module entitled 'South Asian Dance' in global diaspora in the UK.