The Bharatnatyam Training begins with a Namaskar. Then some exercises are done to warm before learning the basic steps (Adavus, Korvais ). The Bharatnayam dancer uses the hand gestures as her language of expression ( Abhinaya) . Gradually , the student is taught the various items beginning from simple to complex (Margam). And when the Guru thinks that the student is ready , her first public performance is done (Arangetram).
A minimum of 6-7 years is required to know the technique and learn the Margam. That is when the dancer is ready to give her first performance in public. This is called as the ‘Arangetram’. Arangetram is a Tamil word, ‘Aranga’ meaning a raised floor and ‘Etram’ meaning climbing or entering. After taking the training from her Guru, the dancer is sort of qualified and is introduced in the field of Performing Arts. In real sense this is just the beginning of a dancer’s life and there is a along way to go. It is a great and a prestigious event for the Guru as well as the shishya-the student. It is the test of the Gurus teachings as well as the test of talent and virtuosity of the student dancer.
The training begins with the learning of a prayer and a Namaskar. The disciple first pays her salutation by saying a prayer to Nataraj/Mother Earth and then performs the traditional Namaskar to Mother Earth, the God, the Guru and the audience. She bows to Mother Earth when she touches the floor and prays to God when she keeps her hand in ‘Anjali’ hasta (that is, joined as in doing Namaste in Indian tradition) a little above her head. She prays to the Guru when her ‘Anjali’ hasta is on her forehead and to the audience when her ‘Anjali’ hasta is on chest. Namaskar is done to ask permission and forgiveness from Mother Earth for stamping her. This salutation is done before and after every dance session, be it a recital or a class.
Then the disciple is taught the basic steps called the ‘Adavus‘. But before that it is always a good practice to do some Exercises to warm up and help the body in achieving flexibility, balance and poise in the basic positions and movements. While carrying out the Adavus, special importance is paid to the ‘Angashuddha’, that is, correct posture of the limbs which includes the ‘Nritta hastas’; the ‘Paadabhedaas’; ‘Taalashuddha‘, that is, accurate rhythm ; then the ‘Taandava’ (strong movements) and the ‘Laasya’(graceful movements). The style of these Adavus vary with each Guru and Sampradaya (tradition). There are about hundred variations of Adavus which are practiced before the main items are taught. Then these Adavus are combined to form the Korvais or Jethis, that is a group of Adavus in varied permutation and combination. The Korvais are in turn combined to form the Teermanams (sequence of Korvais) and Aridis (endings with the repetition of particular adavus for three times on special rhythmic syllables).
There are varieties of Adavus like Tattadavu, Natadavu, TattaMettadavu, Kattadavu, Kudittamettadavu, Maiadavu, Mandiadavu, Jati, Nadai and many more….The posture is always half sit that is ‘Ayata’ or ‘Aramandi’ except in cases where mentioned otherwise. After the teachings of Adavus, the main items (Margam) are taught beginning with Alarippu, Jatiswaram and so on.
Gayathri Srinivasan in “Mandi Adavu”