Last night I was very privileged to attend a fabulous dance recital with sasgirl and other friends from mybindi. The dance form we went to see is called "Bharatnatyam" and it has its origins in the temples, royal courts, private soirees and weddings of South India. The dance was originally performed by the devadasis (distinct communities of women performers) . The Devadasis often lived in women-centered households and many underwent a ritual marriage to a temple deity ,however, they were allowed to have relationships with male partners of their choice, and children born of such relationships were considered legitimate and took their mother's names.
In 1947, with the Indian reform movement, the world of the devadasis was altered forever and the government officially outlawed the devadasi lifestyle by passing the "Anti-Devadasi Act". The dasis were banned from singing and dancing; some were dislodged from their homes and even branded as "prostitutes".
Their dance form was thankfully reinvented by non-devadasi elites in the early 20th century as one of the "classical ' arts of India: BharatNatyam.
The Dance itself is a beautiful, but complex series of moves by a dancer in a linear or geometrical fashion oozing eroticism, longing, desire, sensualism - one has to watch for the eyes and the hand movements in particular because they are full of symbolism - it's like watching an exotic Indian sculpture come to life - sheer poetry! There is also a lot of intricate foot movement with the dancers' feet, wrapped in bells, often tapping out music comparable to a wonderful percussion instrument.