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Pakkadavu – Basic Units Of A Bharatanatyam Composition

Pakkadavu is one of the basic units of Bharatanatyam dance composition. Adavu forms the basis of the dance (nritta) technique of Bharatanatyam. The hands combined with a rhythmic movement of the feet and a harmonious flexion of the body in precise coordination is called adavu. Each adavu is identified by a syllabary or rhythmic phrase, e.g. ta tai tam – dhit tai tam.

Adavus are the basic vocabulary of a dance composition. There are ten different classes of adavus and in each class twelve varieties – a total of 120 fundamental dance motifs which may be combined in endless variations of choreographic design. Adavu is perhaps the closest to the movement called the karana in Natyashastra terminology.

Adavu always beings with a static position and then explores the possibility of movement through different types of foot contacts – with the sole, the toe or the heel and the combination of these, first in place and then in space. A series of adavus strung together in a section of timing (tala avarta) forms a dance pattern(teermanam or adavu jati). While the feet articulate the rhythm, formalized gestures of the hands and arms,combined with stylized movements of the body, create beautiful plastic designs in space. A combination of adavus is called a korvai. A korvai usually ends with a teermanam. A teermanam is the ‘Kitathakadharikitatom’ or the ‘Tadhinginathom Adavu’ performed in multiples of three.

In any dance performance, the pupil prostrates to Mother Earth and the audience and takes blessings from the teacher. This is called pushpanjali. This is followed by adavus which are the rhythmic body movements with hand gestures. These constitute the basic movements in dance. There are 64 basic adavus and they are divided into nine parts, of which Thattadavu, Nattatadavu, Kuthithumettadavu, Mandiadavu, Sarukkal and Thattumettu are very important. Some of the adavus are – Tattaduvu, Mettaduvu, Nattaduvu, Kattaduvu, Nattukatadavu, Kattunatadavu, Thattu Mettu Adavu, Mundinatirmanagalu, Hundinateermanagalu, Egurumettu, Kuditta Adavu, Mandi Adavu, Pakkadavu, Jataradavu, Nadai and Vaiyarinadai.

The eighth group is sometimes known as the ‘poi adavu’ (Pakkadavu),meaning the soft silent dance patterns, with graceful hops and jumps. While there are many varieties of this adavu, it is distinctive feature if the lifting of the feet very silently to a new position. Such extensions, front and back, are common. Some of the postures of Bharatanatyam belong to this group. Portions of dance numbers, such as Jatiswaram are executed in this adavu.