The Bharata-Natyam, traditional dance originating from the temples of the South of India, perpetuates the canons of the Natya-Shastra - the major treatise on the dramatic arts - written down around 2000 years ago. As an actress, the dancer brings to life both Gods and demons, natural forces and fabulous animals, along with the most subtle passions of the human soul, and all this in harmony with the flute, the violin or the vina. The language of the hands (mudra) allow creative interpretation of poems sung in different languages. As a musician, with her ankle bells underlining the percussion with the rythmic precision of the foot beats, the dancer brings grace and vigour to the geometrical and sculptural beauty of the body postures.
 
Mysore in South India has developed a long tradition of dancers, both in temples and in the Maharaja's courts. From the 11th to 13th centuries, the queens of the Hoysala dynasty were expert artists, such as the famous Shantala, dancing in the temple of Belur, at the feet of the sculptures.
The Bharata Natyam repertoire, as it is transmitted today in the majority of Indian schools, was structured at the beginning of the 19th century at the court of King Sarfoji II of Tanjore. Chinnaya, one of the four founders, moved to Mysore where, as honoured guest of King Krishnaraja Wadiyar III, he composed new varnams and thillanas. This particular style of Bharata-Natyam, called pandanallur, is perpetuated at Mysore through the teaching of K. Muralidhar Rao. There is also a last court dancer, Venkatalakshamma, who has transmitted her art of abhinaya at the university of Mysore since the end of the reign of the last Maharaja.
 

Born in 1924, K. Muralidhar Rao received the teaching of three famous masters : Rajan Iyer in Kathakali - theatrical dance from Kerala, Chokkalingam Pillai and Rajaratman in Bharata-Natyam, and Krishnamacharya in yoga. When, in 1952, the great T. Balasaraswati (1918 - 1985) saw his two young disciples dance on stage, she declared : "this master has pushed back even farther the frontier of Beauty and has unveiled to us a new fragment of the world".

In 1990, the Kalakshetra school and the doyen Chandrabhaga Devi recognised in K. Muralidhar Rao not only the authentic pandanallur style but also an immensely rich and original creativity, essential to the future of Indian dance. Although this master has refused to found a school, wishing to maintain the oral quality of his transmission, consecrating himself to a few disciples and remaining far from the world of spectacles and performances, the government of Karnataka has awarded him the title of the greatest master of Bharata-Natyam - the Shantala award. Since 1985, he has composed over a hundred dance compositions for Manochhaya, of which the majority are founded on the ancient temple rituals, such as Navagrahas, which represents seven hours of performance on stage.