Bharatanatyam is a classical dance of India, indigenous to the Tamil Nadu region and prevalent in southern India. Bharatanatyam serves the expression of Hindu religious themes and devotions. Bharatanatyam was originally performed exclusively by female temple dancers and was not brought to the stage for public performance until 1930.
A program of Bharatanatyam usually lasts two hours without interruption and includes a specific list of procedures, all performed by one dancer, who does not leave the stage or change costume. The accompanying orchestra—composed of drums, drone, and singer—occupies the back of the stage, led by the guru, or teacher, of the dancer.
In pure style, Bharatanatyam is classically clear in technique. The feet beat out complicated counter rhythms; the legs are bent in a characteristic low squat; arms, neck, and shoulders are part of the movement. In the pantomime sections, the hands tell the story through conventional gesture language, while the face expresses the mood. In the pure dance the hands are restricted to 11 mudras (symbolic hand gestures).
Excerpts from the Encyclopedia of Britannica, Bharatanatyam