Some historical snippets of BN – Part 17 – Dance costume

This post is a continuation of the previous post about Bharatanatyam costumes (Part 16), excluding jewellery aspect of Aaharya, with some interesting tidbits. This is the second part of a sub-series within the historical snippets series.

For previous parts on the historical snippets, click on Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 13a, Part 14, Part 15, and Part 16.

In continuation of the previous post on costumes(Part 16), we will see some the costumes by Bharatanatyam dancers.

Looking back, chronologically the dance costumes of devadasis can be broadly classified into the following types. My basis on the observation of vintage photos of devadasi dancers.

The saree costume with the pallu in the front. This looks similar if one wore a 6-yards saree

The dancers in the photos below are wearing this style of costume. The devadasi dancer Smt. Kumbakonam Bhanumathi said in an interview that

It consisted of a sari worn like a pyjama and a piece of muslin worn in the front like an apron

The first one is a cropped photo titled “Kalyani Daughters” [1] and the second one from a group photo of devadasi dancers posing [2]. For a full image click here. It is not clear from these photographs if they are wearing a pyjama underneath. Also, not sure if the saree is tied in the kaccham style. The style included the thuyya; strips of gold or silver tassels, this gave the pallu a grander look. You can notice this thuyya in all the vintage photos below.
pleat002pleat001

Image Courtesy: Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

Image Courtesy: Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

The saree costume in the kaccham style and the pallu tucked in the side, with a pyjama underneath

This type of costume can be seen in the video of Baroda dancers. It was the norm to wear a pyjama underneath in this style. One can see a glimpse of the dark colored pyjama at the timestamp 9:15
Devadasis_BritishPathe
kaasotaSee video of the dancers here and the detailed post on them here [3, 4]

Alternative version: A short saree reaching till the shanks, worn over a pyjama that is clearly seen

This style is seen in the photos below. In these and the above photo, the saree is not stitched. This results in a volume of material near the navel and according to Ghuyre in his book “Bharatanatya and its costume” published in 1958 [5, 6] results in “a slightly ugly corpulent look“. In other words, it made the dancer look chubby. For example, as seen in the photo below. It shows the profile of the costume with huge volume of material.
baroda_dancer_cropIn the LIFE magazine photo, the dancers are wearing pyjamas under the sarees. Apart from these the dancers are wearing a sacred-thread like accessory either made of cloth or with flowers. In some instances, gold poonal-like accessory was also known to be worn [7].

Sudharani started wearing the yagnopavitam on the suggestion of G. Venkatachalam (a connoisseur of art) who explained to her that it was worn in the Chola period by dancers who had attained proficiency in their art form

b31671bdc06c1e41_large

Costume worn for Kuravanji dance dramas

The costumes for a dance drama like the Kuranvanji had a preset costume for each character. In this vintage photo of the dancer Smt. Veenabhashini Ammal and her troupe, we see that the princess character played by Smt. Veenabhashini Ammal is bejeweled and decked with jewelry and is wearing a darker satin like material, that is heavily embroidered. To her left is the Kurathi character, whose costume is simple and plain compared to the sakhis of the princess. [8]
overall002 Another photo of a Kuravanji dance-drama shows similar costume preferences. Here the princess is in the center, flanked by her three sakhis. The Kurathi is in the far left of the photo. [9]
Kothari_1979007_overall_3

Imbibing changes to costume

In the pre- and post-independence period, there were many changes seen in the costumes of dancers. Some of them were warmly welcomed by dancers from hereditary families. For example, the dancer Smt. Kumbakonam Bhanumathi switched to wearing the costume designed and introduced by Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale. This prompted Smt. T. Balasaraswati to suggest that she go back to wearing the traditional dress. Bhanumathi did not accept the suggestion, since she believed that dancers should accept innovations which were valid and did not violate the essence of tradition. Besides she found the new-fashion costume quite attractive. [10]. This information is correlated by Smt. Kalanidhi Narayanan in her interview to Sruti [11].

Kumbakonam Bhanumathi began using this dress [stitched costume] instead of the traditional kachcham.

In the book “Bharatanatya and its costume” published in 1958 by G. S. Ghurye [5, 6] there is a chapter devoted to current costume trends. He mentions the unbroken tradition of the “free flowing frontal pleats”. They were popular in the past and also with dancers such as Smt. Tara Chaudhury and Smt. Kamala.

The feature was so far prized as a fashion item that in a number of sculptures of Bharhut, made-up pleated fronts of some stiff material are seen in the costume of many of the figures

We saw the front-pleats in our earlier post; Part 16

We can see the dancer Tara Chowdhary (who passed away last month) with the free flowing frontal pleats in the video below (timestamp 4:13). [12] Video link provided by Minai in her post “Rare Video of Dancers Tara Chowdhary, Guru Gopinath, and Indrani Rehman

In the Issue 250 Sruti magazine compiled the arangetram costumes of dancers [7]. Instead of giving a list, it would be interesting is to highlight some of the dancers, in no specific order, about their choice of costumes in their arangetram and their costumes at a later point of time.

Rukmini Devi Arundale

It has been mentioned in the newspaper reports and by eye-witnesses that Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale wore a white and gold costume for her debut performance in 1936. She is credited to have popularized the pyjama-style stitched costume for dancers. Specifically, she had the fortune of having Madame Cazan, an italian seamstress by her side to design the costumes [13, 14].

with the help of an Italian seamstress, Madame Cazan, she designed new and artistic costumes

Madame Cazan, a talented Italian seamstress, designed the costumes, and Conrand Woldringh, Alex and Mary Elmore handled the lighting and settings.

In the few photos below, we will see some costume used by Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale.

kalakshetra_rukmini_devi_2013_celebrations_2Click here to see the same costume in another angle. And here. The first thing one observes is the absence of pallu that covers the blouse. This was not the only costume without pallu used in the traditional way. See another costume of Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale.

Image Courtesy: Samudri Archives

Image Courtesy: Samudri Archives

This does not mean that she wore costumes without any pallu on the top. In fact, she did. But, her sense for aesthetics did not stop with that. Here is a compilation of five sleeve designs that are equally captivating and unique. [15] Click on image to see full-size image.

RDA_sleeve_frills_2Thanks to Shri. Rajkiran Pattanam for giving a glimpse of how the fourth photo might be in color! Here, the pallu comes from both sides and criss-crosses over the shoulder.
RDA_Sitting_Pink_Green RDA_Sitting_Pink_Blue zooNDuBh
We can see some of the sleeve influences in others as well. For example, in the Sabapathy movie (1941), in the song “Naan Ange Varuveno” [16] the heroine Smt. R. Padma is wearing a no-pallu-sleeve-design type costume.

Periyanayaki_Sabapathy_1941See video of R. Padma by clicking here [16]. Hat-tip to Minai!
Continuing on the topic of Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale’s costume choices, we come across three photographs of her performing in March 31st 1957 at Vigyan Bhavan for the Sangeet Natak Academy function, New Delhi [17, 18, 19]. Here her costume choice is a simple, pyjama style costume with a single fan in the front. Also, the pallu is tucked in the front.
RDA_1957

T. Balasaraswati

bala_001Stickler to tradition, Smt. T. Balasaraswati’s early photographs indicate that she wore the saree costume in the kaccham style, over a pyjama. In the above photo, we see that the pallu is brought to the front. [20] In her later years, she stuck to the saree costume, but wore it in a natural way, which became her signature style. In the iconic photograph, the pallu is tucked on the side, with saree worn over a pyjama.

Image Courtesy: Archives of Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, Massachusetts

In the documentary Bala by Satyajit Ray, she is wearing a white saree in dark maroon border, with the pallu tucked on the side. She is wearing a blouse, where the sleeve is elbow-length.
Bala_1976

Kamala Lakshminarayanan

Unlike the norm of wearing new costumes Smt. Kumari Kamala/Kamala Lakshminarayanan wore the costume she wore for the movie “Kismet” (1943), which was a highly successful movie. [7] We can see Smt. Kamala as a child in this video of the Kismet movie

Here is the screenshot showing the full costume, which has white (?) pyjama with the choli being made of thicker material. The choli has sequin work and probably glittered in the limelight on stage!

Kamala_KismetIn her later years, her costume was in the most popular style of Bharatanatyam costume. Like in the India Tourism 1962 poster from Prof. Frances Prichett’s collection.

poster1962In this photo above and the one below, she is wearing called a “dhavani” or “melakku” or an upper garment. This is screenshot from the Film Division’s documentary called “Bharatanatyam“.

MelakkuThe dhavani is a translucent or diaphanous material made of nylon and came in many colors; white being commonly used. It was part of the dance costume and many dancers wore this. See this post that shows the duo Sayee-Subbalakshmi with the semi-transparent dhavani. [21] This is similar to the odhni worn by the Orissi dancers. However, as the years went by this melakku did not make any appearance in the Bharatanatyam costumes. We see the dhavani in this 1959 India Tourism advertisement. [22]
India_Tourism_melakku

Indrani Rahman

Among the existing photographs of Smt. Indrani Rahman in a Bharatanatyam costume, there are two types. One with the saree-costume with the pyjama showing and the same saree-costume without the pyjama. [23]

Image Courtesy: The Hindu

In the photo below, one can notice the absence of the pyjama
Indrani_rehmanThere is an interesting anecdote as why the pyjama underneath is not seen. As told to C S Lakshmi in the book “Mirrors and Gestures” she explains that it was at the suggestion of Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, she removed the pyjama part, below the knee. [24]

I danced in the nine yards sari with a long pyjama to hide the legs, and the ankle bells go over the bottom of the pyjama to secure it [As seen in the first photo of hers]. And then you know, people complained in the north. “We don’t like the pyjama and that it looks funny to have a pyjama with a sari. Salwaar kameez, that is a different matter.” When I was going to China in 1955, I was the head of a huge cultural delegation on an official exchange trip, we had a farewell performance at N.D.F. auditorium and Panditji sent a message back stage-Mrs. Indira Gandhi was also sitting with him- that the pyjama doesn’t look nice. So I cut the pyjama above the knee, under the sari, and then my leg from the knees down was bare and I had the bells.

For her performances, she opted to two types of costumes; a draped saree in the first half of the program, and the cut-stitched saree for the second half. Her adoption of the stitched saree costume was not liked by her mother Smt. Ragini Devi.

Ironically, Smt. Ragini Devi’s costume were not in the traditional costume, initially. (I will more post about Smt. Ragini Devi some day!) Since, the choreography of Ragini Devi was more Oriental in taste and was in demand with the theme she had performed. And, this was before she had learnt from the devadasis. [24] After learning the art, she wore the traditional dance costumes.

I also should mention here that Smt. Indrani Rahman in her Odissi/Orissi performances and Kuchipudi performances did not wear a upper garment to go over the blouse. No dhavani. In this Kuchipudi performance of Manduka Shabdam, we can see there is no dhavani.

Also, in this photo of her in Odissi/Orissi costume, there is no Odhni.
Indrani_rehman_Orissi

Shanta Rao

According to reports, for her arangetram that happened in the Museum theatre in Madras, Smt. M. S, Subbalakshmi gave her jewelry for Smt. Shanta Rao’s D-day. Based on the earlier posts on Smt. Shanta Rao, here and here, she wore the saree costume, with the pallu tucked on the side for her Bharatanatyam performances.

tumblr_m3zrxsIBRB1rohh5do1_1280

Image Courtesy: Life Magazine, Google

Image Courtesy: New York Public Library

Image Courtesy: New York Public Library

In some of her photographs, the pyjama underneath is clearly observed. But, in some others, it looks like there is no pyjama. It would be apt here to recall that Smt. Shanta Rao stirred a storm by wearing the saree below the navel for her performances. Click here for more on that.

Chandrabhaga Devi

As we saw in the earlier post (Part 16), Smt. U. S. Chandrabhaga Devi during her training period with guru Pandanallur Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai, she wore her husband’s shorts for her guru to clearly see her lower body movements. In her other photographs, she is wearing the stitched pyjama costume with the pleats in the front. [25]

Image Courtesy: Narthaki’s Dance History Column

Image Courtesy: Narthaki’s Dance History column

Kalanidhi Narayanan

In her interview Smt. Kalanidhi Narayanan says “Not much importance was given to costume then.” [11]. For her arangetram, she wore a pyjama style costume with the upper garment making a V shape, as seen in the photo below.

Image Courtesy: Samudri Archives

Image Courtesy: Samudri Archives

In her later years, during presentations and demonstrations she stuck to the saree worn as a daily wear, with the pallu bought to the front and tucked in. An example image is shown below, which is a screenshot from the Bharatanjali series that was aired in Doordarshan.
Kalanidhi_Narayanan_Bharatanajali

Lakshmi Vishwanathan

Smt. Lakshmi Vishwanathan wore two pyjama style costume for her arangetram. The first one was in pinkish-orange (called as Kanakambharam color in Tamizh) with a deep-purple border. The fan and blouse were matching as they were in arakku (lac color) and gold. The second costume was while and gold costume. The second costume also had matching fan and blouse, which was in orange and gold. [7]

Image Courtesy: Narthaki

In her recent performances, like the one for the Shabda lecture-demonstration series, [26] she is seen wearing a saree costume with the pallu tucked to the side, like the one seen in Bala video above. Instead of the a traditional maanga-malai (mango necklace) here she is wearing part of the vanki as the pendant.

Lakshmi_ViswanathanKnown for her exquisite tastes in the material that goes in making her costumes, she makes sure that the saree border [7]

should not exceed 1/5th of length (breathwise)…the zari for the border should always be pure zari. The design of the border will be: taazham poo (Fragrant Screw Pine), malli moggu (Jasmine buds), maangai (Mango), Hamsa (a mythological Swan), Tarai poo.

Recently, she has given practical tips to dancers about Bharatanatyam costumes in her column “Seen and Heard” in www.narthaki.com. [27]

The most important aspect they should consider is their own height and weight. Slender and tall figures can take some busy looking costumes. The others should tone down and go for a sleek flattering look rather than too many contrasts, borders, motifs, checks, stripes, polka dots etc.

Smt. Lakshmi Vishwanathan has a suggestion for an alternate career

Perhaps some dancers who do not see themselves as career performers can become costume designers? They need to do a course in design, if they have an aptitude for it. A sense of aesthetics and a sensitivity to shapes, lines, movement patterns of the body, color and texture are important. I do hope young designers will emerge to design costumes, with a sense of style, which does justice not only to the dance and dancer but also make use of our vast variety of Indian fabrics, particularly the hand-woven.

Click here to read more.

Chandralekha

Smt. Chandralekha had the good fortune to learn from Smt. T. Balasaraswati the technique of wearing the nine yard saree with the kaccham. It is said that on Balasaraswati’s insistence she wore lot of jewellery round the neck [7]

Image Courtesy: Samudri Archives

Image Courtesy: Samudri Archives

Image Courtesy: Narthaki’s Dance History column

Smt. Chandralekha’s arangetram had two sets of costumes; a pyjama style costume for the first half and the traditional draped saree for the second half. [7]

Mrinalini Sarabhai

In a photograph that shows a young Smt. Mrinalini Sarabhai, one can clearly see that she is wearing the saree style costume over the pyjama. The pallu is tucked on the side. [28]

Image Courtesy: Victoria and Albert Museum

In a series of photographs taken in 1954 shows her with a stitched saree-style costume. [29]
and in this photo below, it is a stitched pyjama style costume, without a melakku. [30]Chitra Visweswaran

For her arangetram in 1962, Smt. Chitra Visweswaran wore two pyjama type dresses, and a Kurathi costume. For the pyjama costume, she had a golden colored diaphanous melakku. [7] As seen in the photo below, the front pleats stop at the knees.

Image Courtesy: Samudri Archives

Image Courtesy: Samudri Archives

In the photographs and videos available, Smt. Chitra Visweswaran is seen wearing a stitched saree costume, also known as the skirt costume, with the pallu tucked on the side. [31]

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Sudharani Raghupathy

For her arangetram, Smt. Sudharani Raghupathy had two pyjama costumes; an orange with red border and another pyjama costume white with gold border for post-varnam. [7]

Image Courtesy: Samudri Archives

Image Courtesy: Samudri Archives

As mentioned above, she started wearing the silver-dipped-gold yagnopavitam on the insistence of art critic Shri. G. Venkatachalam. [7] We can see this in a recent photograph of her in dance costume. [32]

Image Courtesy: Narthaki

Padma Subrahmanyam

In her Natyasastra Doordarshan series, Smt. Padma Subrahmanyam is seen wearing the pyjama costume, and in Karana Prakarnam (timestamp 3:39) she is wearing a half-saree on top of a pyjama of the same color. In recent photographs, she is seen wearing the stitched saree costume with the pleats running from left to right.
Padma_S_DD

Image Courtesy: The Hindu

Leela Samson

In her interview to C S Lakshmi, Smt. Leela Samson mentions that instead of a tight fitting costume, she wears that have a “flow”. In other words, that don’t cling to the body and gels with her aesthetic sense.[24]

She avoids the cut costume that accentuates separate parts of the body like the breasts and the bottom. She prefers costumes that have a flow, which can be draped over the body and flow along its contours without inviting attention to any specific part of the body.

We can see two types of costumes in the available videos. The first one looks like a skirt-type saree costume, but the front pleats merge seamlessly with the pyjama. The pyjama is seen only when the dancer turns around. This is seen in the Alarippu video, at timestamp 2:34 [33]

Leela_Samson_YT

The other type of costume is the pyjama costume, cross pleats, and with the drape on the side. As seen in the initial part of the following video:

Image Courtesy: Milapfest

Image Courtesy: Milapfest

In her own words, she describes the changes she had introduced [24]

It doesn’t have to cling to my body. So I have made some changes. I just drape half of it, as I feel comfortable, and what- to me-seems aesthetically sound….I have been more and more innovative as I have matured and if I feel I can drape part of it, I do that. It gives me a feeling of satisfaction because it has a kind of flow to it which I like….The dhavani also was beautiful. Then they did away with the dhavani and started putting all sorts of things around the breasts and little fans on the belly. I can’t get into something like that, I would feel very uncomfortable. So, instead, I just started draping it as a normal sari but with pyjama and everything.

Yamini Krishnamurthy

In a photograph dated October 7, 1958 Smt. Yamini Krishnamurthy is seen wearing a stitched pyjama costume. The front pleats stop at the knees, and she is wearing the diaphanous dhavani. [34]
71079_YKIn the documentary of Yamini Krishnamurthy by Film Division, there is a shot of her dressing room that shows the various costumes she would use for her performances [35]. I have made an animated GIF of that shot. Click on the image below to see the animated GIF.

YK_costume

Vyjayanthimala Bali

For her Arangetram, Smt. Vyjayanthimala Bali wore a pyjama costume. [36]

Image Courtesy: Samudri Archives

Image Courtesy: Samudri Archives

In another pyjama costume [36]

Image Courtesy: Samudri Archives

Image Courtesy: Samudri Archives

In recent times, the saree costume is what she is seen performing in, either with the pallu tucked on the side or in the front (as seen in the photograph below)

Image Courtesy: The Hindu

Costume making

Shri. D S Aiyyelu’s name (also spelled Aiyyalu) cannot be ignored when talking about costumes for dance. Click here and here for the two part The Hindu articles about his creativity and workmanship on making dance costumes. [37, 38] A earlier report on him can be read here and here. [39, 40]

Image Courtesy: The Hindu

In a detailed interview he gave to Sruti [40] he talks about various types of pyjama costume. While the pyjama costume is most popular and comes with an attached or separate pallu. He says the varieties of pyjama type costume are:

  • The pyjama with a fan and a blouse tucked in.
  • The pyjama with a big fan, a tucked-in blouse with attached pallu and a small fan.
  • An old-type pyjama with a vertical border running down each leg and a big fan in the middle, a short blouse, a pallu tucked in and covered by a back piece worn over the hip.
  • The pyjama with three fans and a separate choli. [The choli for children has a fan].
  • The pyjama with short and long fans, the second fan reaching down to the knees.

Talking of the second type of costume, the saree costume, he says there are two ways to do this.

One way is to cut and stitch it according to the required design. In the other method the six-yard saree is not cut-up, but is cleverly stitched at the waist and the pallu. On removing the stitches and a few hooks and string tapes, the saree can be restored to its original plain form.

The third type he mentions is the saree-skirt costume.

saree-skirt type of costume with or without a vertical border running down the centre of the frilled fan in front, a ‘back piece’ around the hip, and with a separate blouse and pallu

Sleeves of the blouses

Shri. G. S. Ghurye mentions in the chapter “Dance costume in theory and practice” about the blouse sleeves. [5, 6] In his opinion, the European influence with the elite class made the blouse of the European style replace the ‘Choli’. The choli, like the Maharastrian one, has always been so short that

it hardly ever reached beyond the lower breast-line. The sleeves generally covered two-thirds of the upper arm. When they ended above the middle of the upper arm, they invariably elicited critical murmurs.

If you observe all the above photographs, specifically the sleeve length, one notices that the length rises and falls like the ocean waves. Some have it beyond the elbow and others show ample upper arm, the rest in between. On the same topic, G. S. Ghurye says

Tautness or vibration of muscles and the shapeliness of female shoulders are components of the total aesthetic feeling that female dancers create. The puffed-up sleeves or too long sleeves are a hindrance in the way of the play of muscles of the upper arm. Besides, the puffed-up sleeves create an appearance of broad and squarish shoulders, which generally detracts from feminine grace.

How to stitch a costume

In case you were wondering how to stitch your own costumes, click here and here. Smt. Vani has a detailed description with pictures of how to stitch a Bharatanatyam pyjama style costume. [42, 43]

References:

  1. http://madrasmusings.com/Vol%2021%20No%208/bharata-natyam.html
  2. http://www.flickr.com/photos/celeste33/271869435/in/photostream/
  3. http://cinemanrityagharana.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-devadasi-video-mystery-solved.html
  4. http://www.britishpathe.com/video/maharanee-of-baroda
  5. http://books.google.com/books/about/Bharatanatya_and_its_costume.html?id=WgRCnQEACAAJ
  6. http://www.dli.gov.in/scripts/FullindexDefault.htm?path1=/data7/upload/0183/931&first=1&last=96&barcode=2020050006003
  7. Sruti, July 2005 Issue 250
  8. Lakshmi Viswanathan Women of Pride. Roli Books 2008
  9. Sunil Kothari Bharatanatyam Marg Foundation 2001
  10. “Glimpses from a Memorable Past” Kumbakonam Bhanumathi in Sruti December 1992, Issue 99-100.
  11. Sruti, December 1998 Issue 171 Pg 66
  12. http://cinemanrityagharana.blogspot.com/2013/03/rare-video-of-dancers-tara-chowdhary.html
  13. http://www.narthaki.com/info/profiles/profil44.html
  14. http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/fr/2003/03/28/stories/2003032801060400.htm
  15. http://liketellingasecret.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/not-all-smiles-the-gravity-of-rukmini-devi/
  16. http://cinemanrityagharana.blogspot.com/2013/10/sayee-and-subbulakshmis-film-industry.html
  17. http://photodivision.gov.in/writereaddata/webimages/thumbnails/59264.jpg (http://photodivision.gov.in/IntroPhotodetails.asp?thisPage=1241)
  18. http://photodivision.gov.in/writereaddata/webimages/thumbnails/59265.jpg (http://photodivision.gov.in/IntroPhotodetails.asp?thisPage=1242)
  19. http://photodivision.gov.in/writereaddata/webimages/thumbnails/59270.jpg (http://photodivision.gov.in/IntroPhotodetails.asp?thisPage=1242)
  20. Indian Classical Dance, Kapila Vatsyayan 1992, Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India (http://books.google.com/books/about/Indian_classical_dance.html?id=B2G1AAAAIAAJ)
  21. http://cinemanrityagharana.blogspot.com/2013/09/muthuswami-pillais-star-students-sayee.html
  22. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/173810866841617133/
  23. The Hindu September 22, 2002 “Dancing through their lives”http://www.hindu.com/mag/2002/09/22/stories/2002092200110400.htm
  24. C S Lakshmi Mirrors and Gestures: Conversations with Women Dancers 2003 Kali for Women
  25. Remembering Prof. U S Krishna Rao, Narthaki.com January 2013 http://www.narthaki.com/info/profiles/profl151.html
  26. Shabda.co.in. Music in Bharatanatyam, Lakshmi Viswanathan http://vimeo.com/38708204
  27. ‘Ah…Aah…Aharya’ in Seen and Heard, Lakshmi Vishwanathan http://www.narthaki.com/info/sh/sh7.html
  28. Victoria and Albert Museum http://www.vam.ac.uk/users/node/8370
  29. http://photodivision.gov.in/writereaddata/webimages/thumbnails/37295.jpg
  30. http://photodivision.gov.in/writereaddata/webimages/thumbnails/37297.jpg
  31. Chitra Visweswaran, Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chitra_Visweswaran
  32. Sudharani Raghupathy: 60 Years of Dance. December 2007. http://www.narthaki.com/info/profiles/profil87.html
  33. Leela Samson, Alarippu http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01FhNzpTYns
  34. http://photodivision.gov.in/writereaddata/webimages/thumbnails/71079.jpg
  35. Yamini Krishnamurthy, Film Division 1981. http://filmsdivision.org/shop/yamini-krishnamurthy
  36. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-fridayreview/artistry-and-virtuosity/article2637247.ece
  37. http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/artists-artist/article2281273.ece
  38. http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/he-deserves-national-recognition/article2301975.ece
  39. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-fridayreview/dancing-fingers-colourful-costume/article1432714.ece
  40. http://www.narthaki.com/info/intervw/intrvw1.html
  41. Sruti September 1998 Issue 168, pg 37-41
  42. http://artvani-vani.blogspot.com/search/label/My%20trial%20of%20Bharathanatyam%20dress
  43. http://artvani-vani.blogspot.com/2013/09/my-trial-of-sewing-bharathanatyam.html
  44. http://ethnomusicologie.revues.org/276

4 responses to “Some historical snippets of BN – Part 17 – Dance costume

  1. I love this post! I can’t stop staring at the images and making comparisons–what a great collection and sources. I don’t think anyone else has done something like this! I didn’t realize how popular the translucent dhavani over the blouse was back in the 1950s. My impression has been that Yamini Krishnamurthy popularized the little fan under the blouse with no dhavani, and that seems to be apparent from how many versions of that style she had in that animated gif!

    Ram Gopal in one of his books (Rhythm in the Heavens, I think) claimed the modern fan was his idea: “The female dancers in my troupe were seldom allowed to wear the trussed-up, apron-fronted nine yards sari used in the Tanjore courtesan dance, the ‘Dasi Attam.’ Instead I was the first to design the spreading fan and blouse effect that has since again been copied as the standard costume for women dancers.”

    I was smirking at the video of Tara Chaudhri’s “free flowing frontal pleats” where the fan seems to be only attached to one leg. I truly hate this style and can’t imagine why it became popular! It seems to show up a lot in classical dance in films, and I wonder if it originated there or if there were any dancers off screen that used the style? It’s so ugly IMO, with the fan flopping around, getting in the way of the leg, and losing the effect of adding beauty to the araimandi half-seated position. Vyjayanthimala’s costume in this dance-off with Padmini is a prime example! http://youtu.be/x2QZeL69DiI?t=2m5s Though I suppose this style is not as bad as the flesh-covered bodice that appeared in countless mythological films or like this one in Shankarabharanam: http://youtu.be/CqL9FEYvwOk?t=35s Ew!

    Another thought: It seems that the piece that wraps around the hips and covers the “bottom” area is something that Rukmini Devi also implemented, as most of the devadasi photos give the impression that the backside area was not covered.

    Last, I am in love with the second photo of Shanta Rao. Her hand gestures and stance…so powerful! Any hints on what’s coming up in Part 3? I’m awaiting it with anticipation!🙂

  2. Thanks! I think G S Ghuyre and Natalie (natyam.ru) have done a compilation. But, a recent study was lacking. Hopefully this post bridges a gap!🙂

    The “little fan under the blouse” has been a standard costume for young girls on stage, even today. But, yes Yamini Krishnamurthy popularized that in 60s and 70s, I think.

    That Ram Gopal claimed as his innovation; I would take it with a pinch of salt. The reason being, he also had claimed that “Natanam Adinar” a dance on Shiva was choreographed exclusively for him. However, that dance was taught to Shanta Rao, as well. Also, it is part of the Kalakshetra repertoire.

    Believe it or not, the free flowing frontal pleats is my favorite.🙂 It beautifully amplifies the dynamic nritta of the dancer. But, I have seen that only in movies and have not seen dancers on stage wearing them.

    I am LOLing at the “flesh-covered bodice”. Supposedly they are taking us to an age, when women wore breast bands and sleeveless blouses. Only few movies transported viewers to that age. For eg: Utsav which more accurately depicted the costumes of the period. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQH0Jn_pkUc

    If you liked the pic of Shanta Rao, see the post with the full album here: https://sangeethas.wordpress.com/2012/06/05/vintage-photos-of-late-padma-shri-shanta-rao/

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