"The performance of Bharatanatyam has evolved from several distinct dance practices from the southern part of India, said to have both secular and ritual functions. In the late eighteenth century and very early nineteenth century efforts were made, mostly under the patronage of the Court of Thanjavur, to codify these practices into a single unified performance practice, a marga, that introduced various sorts of musical compositions and dance technique into a solo dance practice. Various names have been given to this practice, but certainly since the early twentieth century it has been known to many by the name, Bharatanatyam.

Bharatanatyam was a hereditary practice; several members of a family would learn the same style of practice from their elders, the parampara. There would be slight variation in interpretation between family members, but a particular parampara was easily recognized and very carefully maintained and guarded. The artistic integrity of the style depended upon the rigid maintenance of rules and stylistic conventions which distinguished one family from another, and also made it possible for a regional style to maintain its clarity and distinction from other regional styles, much in the same way that regionally related but distinct languages maintain their integrity. One of the characteristics of the family style is that music and dance are conceived as a combined, seamless artistic practice.

This characteristic of the art form, which emerges from beliefs to be held true within the entire family artistic system allows music and dance to be carried forward from one generation to the next to be interpreted into a modern style, consistent with the interpretation of an individual artist, called bani. Aniruddha’s style of performance of both music and dance are distinctly different from his mother and grandmother’s, although all are discernibly rooted in the same family style. For Aniruddha and other members of his family, music and dance wereexpressions of the same things; dance was music made visual, and music was dance transformed into melody, rhythm, and poetry. Not only for Aniruddha but for every traditional dancer, music was the vehicle for expression. It was through the music that variations of interpretation of text arose. Balasaraswati was known for “improvisation” of abhinaya. In fact every traditional dancer “improvised.”

There was no concept of fixed or composed narrative dance; dance masters would teach the art of generating interpretive dance in numerous varieties. Balasaraswati herself commented, “Bharata natyam, in its highest moments, is the embodiment of music in visual form, a ceremony, and an act of devotion. For more than a thousand years, the Sastras have confirmed that an individual dedicated to dance must be equally dedicated to music and must receive thorough training in both arts.”

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