Bharatanatyam: Introducing the traditional Indian art to the next generation of Australians

Bharatanatyam: Introducing the traditional Indian art to the next generation of Australians

Bharatanatyam: Introducing the traditional Indian art to the next generation of Australians

Updated 30 November 2016, 17:25 AEDT

Bharatanatyam is more than just movement and dance for Somi Somehsa — and she is passionate about sharing the experience.

Community and Society:Multiculturalism:ALLArts and Entertainment:Dance:ALLHuman Interest:ALL:ALLCommunity and Society:Religion and Beliefs:HinduismAustralia:SA:Adelaide 5000bharatanatyam. dance, india, hindu, adelaide, somi somehsa, somi lindsayABCBrett WilliamsonBharatanatyam: Introducing the traditional Indian art to the next generation of AustraliansBharatanatyam is more than just movement and dance for Somi Somehsa — and she is passionate about sharing the experience.

The history of Bharatanatyam goes back almost 2,000 years, but the traditional style continues to evolve with contemporary twists.

Ms Somehsa said she began studying the style when she was five years old.

"It is one of the seven main dance forms in India and currently probably the most prolific worldwide.

"It is also the most rigid, structured and geometric dance form."

After 25 years of practising her art Ms Somehsa reached her lifelong goal to become a teacher, opening Indian dance company Apsaras Arts Adelaide three years ago.

A brief history of Bharatanatyam

The dance style began as Hindu temple performances, Ms Somesha said.

It evolved into a royal court performance following the British raj in the mid-1800s before falling in popularity.

Bharatanatyam was revived and modernised in the 1930s by Rukmini Devi Arundale.

The style has grown in popularity outside of its traditional home of southern India.

From toes to eyebrows

The art of Bharatanatyam is an ongoing skill to learn.

Ms Somehsa teaches students from five years of age, with lessons quite literally beginning with baby steps.

"You may spend up to two years just on [learning] footwork," she said.

The students then progress up the body, learning how to use each body part as a storytelling tool.

"Every hand gesture that we do has a name and a meaning to it," Ms Somehsa said.

The emphasis of movement in performance continues to the shoulder, neck, eyes and even eyebrows.

Although some may start early, Ms Somehsa said Bharatanatyam was like yoga and could be taken up at any age.

"My best group is my 40 and above students.

"There is no age limit."

Despite having practised the dance form for almost three decades, Ms Somehsa said she still enjoyed every step.

"This type of dancing is always evolving and always challenges your mind."

With the style being readily accepted by Europeans looking for a new challenge, Ms Somehsa said she was looking forward to introducing Australians to the traditional art.

internationalSomi Somehsa performs a Bharatanatyam routine.Somi Somehsa performs a Bharatanatyam routine.