Bharatanatyam’s theoretical foundations trace to the ancient Sanskrit text by Bharata Muni, Natya Shastra, its existence by 2nd century CE is noted in the ancient Tamil epic Silappatikaram, while temple sculptures of 6th to 9th century CE suggest it was a well refined performance art by the mid 1st millennium CE. Bharatanatyam may be the oldest classical dance tradition of India.
Bharatanatyam style is noted for its fixed upper torse, legs bent or knees flexed out combined with spectacular footwork, a sophisticated vocabulary of sign language based in gestures of hands, eyes and face muscles. The dance is accompanied by music and a singer and typically her guru is present as the director and conductor of the performance and art. The dance has traditionally been a form of an interpretive narration of mythical legends and spiritual ideas from the Hindu texts. The performance repertorie of Bharatanatyam, like other classical dances, includes nrita (pure dance), nritya (solo expressive dance) and natya (group dramatic dance).