Bharatanatyam. It is the most ancient of the classical dance forms of Southern India and comes from a centuries old tradition of spiritual ritual dance performed in the temples. There are two aspects of the dance, the first purely rhythmical (pure dance) and the second, which tells stories from Hindu mythology and the daily lives of village people (abhinaya.) For hundreds of years these dances were performed as daily temple puja (ceremony) by women called Devadasi (Servants of God). Using abhinaya (a language of gesture) and adavus (complex steps), the dancer surrenders her identity to become the vehicle for the expression of ecstatic grace.
Srimati Shyamala is a gurumai of the Balasaraswati lineage of Bharatanatyam. She danced at the age of seven and when she was fourteen began her studies with the legendary T. Balasaraswati. Shyamala is considered to be Bala’s leading disciple and is highly respected for her dedication to the preservation of this extraordinary dance form. She is director of the Koothambalam School of Traditional Bharatanatyam with branches in Chennai, India and Boulder, Colorado. She teaches in India, the U.S. and Europe and performs to acclaim internationally. Her students include Aniruddha Knight, the grandson of Balasaraswati. Shyamala is part of a small group of dance masters who are striving to keep this art alive as ritual offering to the divine. This event was a rare opportunity to experience the dance form in its original purity.