06 August, 2021

The Morph Elegy

Bharatanatyam’s current exponents create a dance vocabulary all their own

Anshuman Sen
The Morph Elegy

Chennai, the city that sleeps at eight, twinkles at night to the taalams of south Indian classical music and dance in the month of Margazhi. The season brings together some 60 sabhas or concert halls hosting over 1,000 Carnatic music and Bharata­natyam performances, folk festivals and literary and poetry readings across different venues in Chennai. 

Now if there’s one art form that has lent itself to much debate across centuries over content, form, gender, class and community, it has been Bharata­natyam, performed as it is by old and young, in forms that are traditional, modern and contemporary today. 

Bharatanatyam traces its roots back to ancient temple art forms. It’s easy to call it centuries old, stuck in tradition, dealing with myths, bhakti and tales, but it’s ever modern. Unlike Kathak or Odissi, Bharatanatyam is held up more as an example of an Indian dance form that has undergone several transformations. Yet, in contemporary times, it has also been held up as a cultural emblem of rigid traditional art, which...

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