When Bharatanatyam Moved from the Popular to the Classical


  • Deepa Mahadevan




Aesthetics Bharatanatyam Spectacularization Pedagogy Tertiary Caste Rupture Loss


This paper is abstracted from my larger research where I study the aesthetics of Bharatnatyam through the axis of spectacularization of the Bharatanatyam body at different points of its history. This paper specifically deals with the period between the end of 1950s and 1970s which set off the rupture from the popular aesthetics in the movies to the classical aesthetic in the mainstream Bharatanatyam world outside of it. This period led to the complete transition of transmission techniques to a tertiary model of learning from its primary habitus in hereditary practitioner households spearheaded as early as 1936 by Rukmini Arundale through her institution of mass learning and transmission, Kalakshetra. Several dance schools mushroomed among the Bharatantyam middle and upper class, largely populated by upper caste, brahmin female students of hereditary Nattuvanar teachers following the lead set by Arundale’s tertiary model of transmission. This period was punctuated by a loss of dancing bodies, practices and methods that irrevocably impacted how dance is being transmitted, presented and assimilated by the Bharatnatyam field today.