Bharata Natyam, the classical dance of South India, is a composite art form which is a meeting ground for other Indian arts such as music, sculpture, painting, literature and architecture, which all blend harmoniously in the dance to create a beautiful and vibrant synthesis. Bharata Natyam was a major form of worship, making it the oldest known classical dance form in existence. Dance had the power to raise the consciousness to a state beyond the dualities of life. It was believed that the timelessness and beauty of the dance would automatically carry the mind/heart into a place of spiritual bliss or liberation. As such, it was not used as a performing art, for mere entertainment or to exhibit skill, but was part of religious rituals only, and was very revered.
Bharata Natyam is composed of two aspects -- form and expression. Nritta is pure joyous movement which corresponds directly to the accents of the music and displays the intricacies of complicated rhythm, poses, and footwork. The dancer creates a visual mandala by use of abstract dance patterns, and it is the point where the dance becomes the visual shape of the melody. Here, time is marked by the rhythms, and space is filled out by the form. Nritya is the art of emotions conveyed through facial expression, hand gestures, and postures of the body to directly express the storyline of a musical composition.