About The Art Form

Bharatanatyam is one of the most popular and widely practiced classical dance styles of India, with origins in the Hindu temples of Tamil Nadu, and sculptural evidence dating back nearly 3000 years. It was originally called Sadir, or Dasiyattam, and was traditionally performed by the Devadasi community. Over time, Bharatanatyam moved from temples to the courts of kings, and then to theaters, but has retained its characteristic devotional component, expression of human emotions, and stylized storytelling. Its versatile vocabulary adapts as well to concepts of contemporary relevance as it does to traditional themes.

Bharatanatyam is comprised of two main aspects – Nritta, or technical dance, with a sophisticated base vocabulary used to build intricate combinations and rhythmic patterns that does not convey any specific meaning; and Abhinaya, or expressive dance, using facial expressions, highly stylized gestures, postures and body language to convey complex emotions.

Silambam students receive firm grounding in Bharatanatyam theory and cultural history, as well as rigorous fundamental training and technique refinement. Much emphasis is placed on mental and physical discipline, and on the importance of practice, passion, dedication and perseverance.

Director: Lavanya Rajagopalan

Co-Directors: Anusha Venkatramani, Krithika Mohankumar

Dance Instructor: Nithya Sherman

Visiting Faculty: Preethi Ramaprasad



The Silambam Bharatanatyam curriculum includes modules on Dance History/Background, Dance Theory, Fitness and Body Conditioning, Technique, and Ancillary Subjects (Music and Rhythm). The various levels of instruction, covering the entire spectrum of dance education from technique to teaching, are as follows:

Pre-Natyam Ages 5-6 No prerequisite

An introductory class in which young students are exposed to the concepts of gestures, storytelling, rhythm, and music in a fun and interactive manner. Students are also taught exercises to build muscle strength and flexibility, as well as the basics of Bharatanatyam stance and technique.

Beginner 1 Ages 6-8 No prerequisite

Basic Bharatanatyam stance, adavu technique, hand gestures, and the mythology of dance are taught in this beginner class. Basic Carnatic music concepts and rhythm/tala fundamentals, as well as flexibility, strength, and balance exercises, are also introduced.

Beginner 2 Ages 7-10 Prerequisite: Beginner 1

Adavus (steps) of increasing complexity, increased detail in theory, exercises for focus and warm-up/cool-down, glimpses into various Indian classical dance styles and temple sculptures, Carnatic music, and an introduction to dance syllables (sollukattu) make up this class.

Beginner 3 Ages 8-11 Prerequisite: Beginner 2

In addition to increasing complexity in technique, theory, and musical training, students in this level will cover hand-eye coordination, the importance of good posture, and an overview of Bharatanatyam texts, early Bharatanatyam (Sadir), and styles (Bani).

Intermediate 1 Ages 9-12 Prerequisite: Beginner 3

Advanced level adavus, theory, Carnatic music lessons, sollukattu recitation, musical notation, body alignment, and an overview of Devadasi tradition, the Tanjore quartet, and the Maargam will be covered in this level.

Intermediate 2 Ages 10-13 Prerequisite: Intermediate 1

Students at this level will complete adavu training and graduate to Alarippu. In addition, they will continue theory lessons, discuss the Bharatanatyam renaissance and nritta/nritya/natya, learn techniques for breath control and stamina/endurance exercises, proceed to simple Carnatic music songs, refine sollukattu enunciation and delivery, and experiment with choreography.

Intermediate 3 Ages 11-14 Prerequisite: Intermediate 2

Students will begin learning a Bharatanatyam repertoire, develop core strength, balance, and stability, and learn to enunciate and deliver jathis and korvais vocally, a precursor to nattuvangam training.

Advanced 1 Ages 12-15 Prerequisite: Intermediate 3

This class will introduce elements of abhinaya in theory and technique, expand the student’s repertoire, polish technique, improve strength and stamina, and allow opportunities for students to practice choreography skills. Voice modulation skills and teacher training on the tattukazhi will also be imparted. Students will perform their salangai pujai towards the end of this year.

Advanced 2 Ages 13 and up Prerequisite: Advanced 1

This arangetram-track class will focus on a complete repertoire, building stamina and strength and polishing technique. Students will become proficient on the tattukazhi and will also be introduced to the nattuvangam.

Advanced 3 Ages 14 and up Prerequisite: Advanced 2

This pre/post-arangetram class will focus on expanding repertoire, as well as choreography and nattuvangam skills. Students in this class will work towards arangetram and beyond, in group and private lessons.

Post-Arangetram Ages 14 and up Prerequisite: Arangetram

This class will delve deeper into the art form. Students in this class will be challenged to create their own choreography, teach repertoire pieces to their peers, handle beginner and intermediate-level classes, research and present dance-related works, expand repertoire, and accompany dancers on the nattuvangam.