Classical Dance Styles

The Chandrabhanu Bharatalaya Academy offers a hight quality training in Indian Classical Dance in both the Bharata Natyam and Odissi styles. This is taught in a traditional manner as well as with modern teaching methods to bring out the best of each student. Emphasis is placed on the fact that there is no short-cut to mastering the dance form. The curriculum put in place by Dr. Chandrabhanu which is followed in Melbourne and in Sydney, allows the students to progress step by step in their development. There is a strong emphasis on the fundamentals of the technique, correct posture, the theoretical base, and on the system of knowledge itself. The Arangetram ceremony, the solo debut recital is not undertaken until the student has undergone studies at the Academy for at least 8 years.

Odissi, also known as Orissi  is one of the eight classical dance forms of India. It originates from the state of Odisha, in eastern India. It is the oldest surviving dance form of India on the basis of archaeological evidences. The classic treatise of Indian dance, Natya Shastra, refers to it as Odra-Magadhi. 1st century BCE bas-reliefs in the hills of Udaygiri (near Bhubaneshwar) testify to its antiquity. It was suppressed under the British Raj, but has been reconstructed since India gained independence. It is particularly distinguished from other classical Indian dance forms by the importance it places upon the Tribhangi (literally: three parts break), the independent movement of head, chest and pelvis and upon the basic square stance known as Chaukaor Chouka that symbolises Lord Jagannath. This dance is characterised by various Bhangas (Stances), which involves stamping of the foot and striking various postures as seen in Indian sculptures.

Chandrabhanu’s Words on Odissi

A homage to my Guruji, Bijoy Kumar Senapat (1936–2011)

Guruji was a man of humility. He had no desire to be rich or famous. He taught Odissi to his best ability. I am infinitely grateful to him for his love and affection for me throughout the time from when I became his student until his passing. My name ‘Chandrabhanu’ (the moon and the sun) was given by him, and it would change my life in unimaginable ways; but he would always call me Jaimini, his affectionate name for me. He was not a famous guru of Odissi, but I consider myself most fortunate to have been his student, and to carry on his heritage.

I first met Guruji in 1974. It was Geoffrey Goldie who insisted thatI should learn Odissi dance from him. For many years Geoffrey and I traveled to Puri, in Orissa, spending much time with Guruji and the art of Odissi dance. Guruji visited Melbourne on three occasions and presided over three grand Odissi productions presented by Bharatam Dance Company:

1991: Odissi The Sensuous Spirit, George Fairfax Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre; 1992: Where the Eyes Go, George Fairfax Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre; 1997: Odissi Odyssey, National Theatre, St. Kilda. During the time spent in Melbourne, Guruji shared with us his knowledge of Odissi. My Odissi dance repertoire is highlighted with many of Guruji’s heritage which he acquired when studying at the Kala Vikash Kendra, the premier Odissi academy in Orissa. Guruji was born in Baripada, Orissa, and was the son of a Chau dancer. He was selected to study Odissi at the Academy and was tutored by all the Jivantika Gurus: Pankaj Charan Das, Deba Prasad Das, Kelucharan Mahapatra and Mayadhar Raut as well as Bijoyalakshmi Mohanty. He was appointed the Odissi tutor at the Orissa Sangita Parishad in Puri, one of the oldest cultural institutions in the state. In his teaching he remained true to the early development of Odissi, particularly in the Mahari tradition which he studied under Pankaj Charan Das, and in the tandava aspect represented by the Sabda Swarapta male repertoire taught by Deba Prasad Das. He remained at the Orissa Sangita Parishad in Puri for a very long period of time, until he was recalled in 1995 by Kala Vikash Kendra to teach at the Academy his repertoire of heritage dances. At this stage, the Orissa Sangita Parishad appointed his daughter, Malavika, who had graduated from Kala Vikash Kendra to take over his position. His repertoire of Odissi which I have inherited includes the quintessential Dashavatar, the ten forms of Krishna, the Sthais, Kalyana Pallavi, several Sabda Swaraptas, Ganesha Tandava, Ashtapadis and Oriya abhinaya pieces. In addition Guruji guided and advised me in several of my major choreographic works including the Dashamahavidya, the Pallavis and the Ras Leela. Guruji will be fondly remembered for the Orissa Sambalpuri folk dance that he taught to Bharatalaya students during his visit in 1997. The lively Sambalpuri folk dance has been presented several times by the students of the Chandrabhanu Bharatalaya Academy, including for India’s 50 years of Independence celebrations in 1997 at the Victorian Arts Centre, Moomba Tram Parade in 1999, the Australia Day celebrations at the Sidney Myer Music bowl on January 26th, 2010, and at the Nrityanjali annual school show celebrating the 30th and 35th anniversary of the Chandrabhanu Bharatalaya Academy.

Bharata Natyam is a classical Indian dance form is popular and nurtured in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. This dance form denotes various 19th and 20th century reconstructions of Sadir, the art of temple dancers called DevadasisSadir in turn, is derived from ancient dance in the treatise Natya Shastra by Bharata of fourth or third century BCE. A possible origin of the name is from Bharata Muni, who wrote the Natya Shastra to which Bharata-Natyam owes many of its ideas. This etymology also holds up to scrutiny better since Bharata Natyam is pronounced with short (kuril) forms of “bha”, “ra” and “tha” whereas each of “bhavam”, “ragam” and “talam” contain the long (nedil) forms. Hence the initialization proposed above is more probably a backronym.

The training for Bharata Natyam commences with the teaching of stretching and strengthening exercises, basic limbering and the basic positions, after which the students begin the adavu lessons, learning the basic units of Bharata-Natyam. Adavu training is done for three years and continues to be revised even in the advanced classes.

In the second and third years students are taught basic repertoire pieces while still continuing to gain mastery over the adavus. In the intermediate and advanced classes, repertoire work is taught and refined. Emphasis is on both the technical mastery as well as the abhinaya (expressive) components.

The traditional repertoire of Bharata Natyam is taught in its full and elaborate form in the final two years before the arangetram. Students are given several opportunities to perform once repertoire work is refined. In Melbourne, the highlight of the year is the Nrityanjali Annual Concert, when all enrolled students from all levels are given an opportunity to show their skills and talents.