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Pandanallur Style - Most Popular Bharatanatyam Dance Forms

21st Jul 2022

| Bharatanatyam

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The history of Bharatanatyam is said to date back 2000 years ago, making it one of the oldest Indian classical dance forms there ever is. In fact, it is considered the parent of many Indian dance forms.

In the olden days, the Bharatanatyam dance was performed by devadasis in the courts of the kings and the temples across the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. However, that isn’t the case anymore. In fact, the Bharatanatyam dance has undergone various transformations since it started receiving backlashes from critics down south.

In this article, we will take an in-depth look into one of the many dance forms of Bharatanatyam - the Pandanllur dance form. It is said to be the oldest of all the forms and comprises unique characteristics, too.

Without further ado, let's dive into analyzing this dance form –

What is the Pandanallur Bharatnatyam style?

Almost every form of Bharatnatyam dance is named after the region or place of its origin. The same is the scenario with the Pandanallur style.

This dance form is mainly attributed to Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai (1869 – 1964) – a dance guru who lived in Pandanallur village of the Thanjavur district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The focus of the Pandanallur dance style stresses deeply the sitting positions, which are quite difficult for the performers. Hence, dedicated consistency in practicing this dance form is important.

Panadanallur dance form has loads of feminine features and is based on padams and poetries. Slow and rhythmic movements add beauty to this dance form. This dance form features three levels, namely –

  • The deep sitting position
  • Standing position movements
  • Moving the body at great speed while dancing

The linear body stance is mostly emphasized in this dance form. Pandanallur style is known for its unique choreography that includes the Nine or Ten Quartet Pada Varnams.

Since the slow movements are appreciated in this dance form, you are bound to learn Saveri, Vasantha, Kalyani and Chakravakam types of Jathisawaram in your Bharatanatyam classes. Your guru will incorporate an abstract adavu choreography to meet the expected requirement of this dance form.

Pandanallur style of Bharatnatyam is known for its emphasis on linear geometry, which is quite visible in the technique of adavu.

The Abhinayam

In the place where other forms of Bharatanatyam give more importance to Abhinayam instead of Adavu, the Pandanallur style is known for underplaying the basic dance steps of Abhinayam.

To ensure the performance looks more genuine and lifelike, the performers prevent the exaggerations of the expressions. Instead, subtle expressions are preferred.

Stamping of the foot hard against the floor is completely restricted in this dance form. The performers are requested to focus on slow movements and make the right use of Salangai or Ghungroo.

Every Pandanallur Bharatanatyam dancer is required to practice the rhythmic vitality to create a natural rhythmic body of expression. Practicing the same while learning Bharatanatyam online is a must because not every dancer or student is capable of meeting the requirement of this impressive feature.

The origin of the Pandanallur style of Bharatanatyam

  • Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai is believed to be a descendant of the Thanjavur Quartet – four brothers – Chinnaiah, Ponniah, Sivanandam and Vadivel. These brothers were court composers in the early 19th century, forming the main classical Bharatanatyam masterpieces.
  • The disciple of Pillai, Baroda Guru Kubernath Tanjorkar (1916 - 2007), went ahead and established the Tanjore Dance Music & Art Research Centre in Baroda, Gujarat. T.K.Swaminatha Pillai was the leading disciple of Pillai, who learned Bharatanatyam for more than a decade under the Gurukula of Pillai.

It is believed that Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai was trained by Kumarasamy Pillai, who had also trained various dancers, including Thangachi Ammal, Pandanallur Jayalakshmi, Sabaranjitham, along with people of other castes like Rukmini Devi Aurndale, Mrinalini Sarabhai and Tara Chaudhri.

After the death of Pillai, it was Chokkaligam Pillai (1893 – 1968 who became the Pandanallur style’s doyen guru. He had taught a handful of famous dancers, including, Sucharita, G. Kausalya, Mambalam Geetha and Indrani Rehman. Later, he shifted to Madras to spread the knowledge of the Pandanallur style of Bharatanatyam.

After Chokkaligam Pillai, it was Subbaraya Pillai (1914–2008), his son, who became the next guru. After being an apprentice under his father and grandfather, Subbaraya Pillai went ahead to teach leading dancers like Meenakshi Chitharanjan and Alarmeli Valli.

Currently, it is Subbaraya Pillai’s daughter Vanitha Ranjan who teaches this dance form in several regions of Tamil Nadu.

Contact the Kafqa experts to know more!

Was this information on the Pandanallur style of Bharatanatyam enough? If yes, good for you. In case you wish to know more about this dance form or wish to learn Pandanallur Bharatanatyam from the best gurus in India, then look no further than Kafqa.

They have a league of expert instructors who know how to conduct online Bharatanatyam classes effectively.