Bharatanatyam is a form a classical dance originated from the Southern part of India. The word ‘Bharatanatyam’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘bhava’,’raga‘ and ‘thala’ which means expression, melody, and rhythm. and Back in the 7th century, this dance form was very exclusive and can only be learned by the royal and the upper class. During the colonial period in India, dance was a tool to educate people about their rights and fight for their freedom. The British administration even banned this dance as it was leading to too much unity and independence movement.
Today, Bharatanatyam has expanded its way all over the world and is one of the most popular forms of Indian dance. It is well known for its grace and elegant. By watching a Bharatanatyam performance one may experience the intense ,joy, anger and humor all at once because Bharatanatyam is a complication of all emotions into one action. Through this dance, people can learn more about the art and culture of India and also more about Hinduism. There are many Bharatanatyam dance school all the world and in recent time this dance has taken over the West by storm. I spoke to Vasanthi Harpal Singh, the founder of Siva Sakthi Dance Academy, a Bharatanatyam dance school based in Malaysia with branches in Australia, India and in the UK to tell us more about Bharatanatyam and how it has gain popularity outside India.
So, when did you start learning Bharatanatyam?
I started learning Bharatanatyam from the early age of 4. I enrolled in a dance school in Chennai, India called Kalashetra Arts. I did my diploma in Dance at the age of 12 and did my degree when I was 16. After that, I moved to Malaysia and opened up a dance school when I was 21.
Tells us more about your dance school?
My dance school is named Siva Sakthi Dance Academy and it was first opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1992. Today, I have six different branches in Kuala Lumpur alone . I have also opened up schools abroad where I have a branch in Australia and India and just opened a class in London last year. We have more than 5000 students learning Bharatanatyam in Malaysia and more than 2000 aboard. I can proudly say, Siva Sakthi Academy is one of the most prestigious dance school in the world.
How is the reception of Bharatanatyam in the Western world?
It has been amazing. I am honestly surprised that there are so many people outside of India who are so interested in this dance. It has only been a year since we opened up a school in London and we already have 200 students which are just amazing. I am also really happy that people in the West are open to new ideas and take up something so unique as Bharatanatyam.
What do you think is the reason to the wide reach of Bharatanatyam in the West?
Firstly, I think is because Bharatanatyam is fun. It is a really fun to watch and learn. I also think people in the West love the Indian culture especially the costumes which is another reason why people are into Bharatanatyam. Lastly, I think because it is a great form of exercise. It helps you to build muscles, lose weight at the same time gives you peace and positivity.
How have Bharatanatyam influences you personally?
Bharatanatyam has given me so much confidence and the ability to stand strong among others. It has also allowed me to rediscover myself and has opened my eyes to lots of positivity that lives within us. Most importantly, it gives me happiness. When out there performing I feel nothing else but happy and also it has given me peace and calm which is what a person need in this hectic world. Lastly, I taught me how to appreciate my background and origin. I firmly believe that everyone has to appreciate and respect their origin and past and by indulging myself in this art form it has given me a strong hold onto my culture and history.
Lastly, why do people should start learning Bharatanatyam?
Firstly, because it is the greatest form of dance.From the hip shaking of Belly dance to the poise in Ballet, Bharatanatyam has it all. Secondly, because it teaches you so much about the Indian civilization, culture, and history. Thirdly, like I said earlier, it is a great form of exercise that your body need. It doesn’t just help you physically but mentally it gives you more clarity and positivity. I firmly believe that everyone has to appreciate and respect their origin and past and by indulging myself in this art is my way of holding on to my culture and history. Hopefully, I will make more contribution to this art and make its pride well known to the rest of the world.