Designed for solo female performance, Bharata Natyam stems from a long history of temple dance. Originating in the south of India, this complex dance form relies on a basic ardhamandali, open-flexed knee position, which lends the form its energy and strength. It is highly linear and geometrical in form, and balances grace and charm with elegance and power, through beautiful mudras (hand gestures) and rhythmical footwork.
Kathak (which literally means ‘storyteller’) is a discipline designed for males and females. This North Indian dance was often performed in royal courts in India and is based around a straight-legged stance. This stance combined with the subtlety of torso movement gives optimum control over the rhythmic footwork and high-speed chakkars (pirouettes), which are its hallmark, whilst hand gestures and facial expressions are underplayed, with emphasis on subtle communication.
A popular Indian percussion instrument, tabla is a set of two drums, consisting of a smaller drum called the dayan, and a larger drum called the bayan. At approximately five hundred years old, it is a relatively new instrument to Indian classical music and was developed as a hybrid of other drums such as pakawaj, puskara, and madal. The tabla is played using the fingers and hands and has become the primary drum for both classical and popular music of North India.
The basis of Indian classical music is the raga or melody type, which employs raags (simple compositions of notes depicting moods and different times of the day). There are two main classical traditions of music in South Asia: North Indian Hindustani, and South Indian carnatic. Within North Indian vocal genres there are three traditions, dhrupad, thumri, and khayal, the last two of which are practised at the Scottish Academy of Asian Arts. Khayal is sung by both men and women and is normally accompanied by tabla, with tanpura and the harmonium providing the second melody line. In thumri, again accompanied by tabla, tanpura, and harmonium, the lyrics and sentiments of the songs are very important, with love and devotion being a strong theme throughout compositions. Thumri is often, but not exclusively, sung by women.
Mehendi (Henna Painting)
Mehendi is the traditional art of adorning the hands and feet with a paste made from the finely ground leaves of the henna plant. The art varies from country to country, spanning different cultures and religious traditions. South Asian (as opposed to African or Middle Eastern) mehendi uses fine line, lacy, floral, and paisley patterns, covering entire hands, forearms, feet and shins and is often used on brides. Western cultures have now adopted mehendi as a fashion accessory, with temporary henna tattoos being very popular amongst young people of all cultures.
Yoga is an ancient discipline from India, coming from a Sanskrit word meaning yoke or union. Yoga uses breathing techniques, exercise and meditation to improve health, happiness and mind-power. Yoga postures (asanas) will tone, strengthen and align the body, while the breathing techniques (pranayama) will quieten and discipline and reduce stress levels.
As well as promoting more traditional Asian art forms like mehendi and rangoli (Indian wall art or floor art which incorporates finely ground powder spices, pulses and seeds in its design), the Scottish Academy of Asian Arts is committed to promoting new visual art forms within the community. We undertake projects and provide workshops in various printmaking techniques, glass painting, wood carving, mukesh and appliqué embroidery, mask and costume making, and storytelling in addition to digital imaging, animation and film-making techniques, which encourages young people in the community to become familiar with new media technology and express themselves creatively in these mediums.