Bharatanatyam (South Indian Classical dance) has always been passed down from teacher to student through oral and lived tradition. This does not pose any problem until dancers seek to keep a written record of their items, and each dancer does so very differently. Similar tendencies, such as stick figures and the use of numbers to suggest rhythm patterns are observed, however the discrepancies are such that each is only able to decipher their own work.
Graphic design is a useful tool in melting such boundaries; effective in creating a much clearer and simpler notation structure to be used as a communicating device. The technical complexity and detail of Bharatanatyam is such that this investigation focused solely on the foot movements in Adavus (small sequences of steps).
A body of visual experiments, inspired by a range of secondary research relating to choreography, dance history, western classical and modern dance notation systems, developed as a result of investigating the ways in which information/notation design and visual grammar can accurately communicate the execution of foot movements in Bharatanatyam. Dancers were recruited to test out the derived experiments and voice their opinions on the subject. The project received overall positive feedback from members of the dance community in London and Bangalore, and can be seen as a starting point for a series of subsequent projects that could eventually be applied to the creation of a standardised Bharatanatyam dance notation system.
The project in article form has been included in Maratt Mythili Anoop and Varun Gulati’s peer reviewed publication: “Scripting Dance in Contemporary India”, available for purchase here.
Project by Divya Venkatesh
Completion Date 2010