Skip to main content

Introduction to Bharatanatyam (ages 12-17)

Summer School for Children and Young People


This exciting three-day course will introduce students to the concept of Indian classical Dances and Bharatanatyam in particular. They will learn about history of Bharatanatyam, events and artists who shaped this dance form into how we see it today. They will learn some theoretical aspects of this dance form like: mythological stories, different rhythmical patterns, hand gestures and their meanings, different characters and emotional states. On the practical side, students will learn basic postures and steps and how to put theory into dance sequences. We will teach one dance choreography where students can put all their knowledge into practice.

By the end of the course, students will:

  • learn about the origin and history of Bharatanatyam
  • have a basic idea of what elements are used in Indian Classical Dance and what makes Bharatanatyam different from other dance styles
  • be able to do basic stances, movements and hand gestures
  • learn the choreography to a Bharatnatyam piece


Bharatnatyam is a classical dance style from Tamil Nadu, South India. It is believed to have originated around the 2nd century B.C as a devotional art performed in the ancient temples of India. Today this art form has moved to the stage and contributed vastly in popularizing Indian culture around the world.

The main features of this dance form are its execution of intricate rhythmic patterns in foot movements, its variety of hand gestures and associated meanings, sculpturesque poses and its expressive eye movements. Mythological stories are playing a big part in Bharatanatyam repertoir making it similar to dramatic play where a dancer conveys stories through her hands, body language and facial experssions.

If you have any questions in advance of booking, please contact us at

You may also be interested: Contemporary Kathak and Choreography (ages 12-17), Introduction to Dance Styles (ages 13-17)

The important details

12 - 17


9 August 2024 - 11 August 2024

Friday - Sunday, 10am - 5pm

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, 100 Renfrew Street, Glasgow, G2 3DB

Course Information

The course is based on six sessions including theory and practical. All the practical sessions will be done with instructors in person during contact hours. Students will be expected to practice choreography before coming to class. Students will be given little tasks/research to complete after the second session.

From learning about the the rich theoretical origins and exploring mythological and historical aspects to refining foundational steps and expressive hand gestures. The student will discover the different styles of Indian classical dances, trace the historical evolution of Bharata Natyam, and explore the cultural significance of Indian epics such ar Mahabharata and Ramayanam in storytelling through movement. It will end in an informal sharing.

There are no entry requirements for this course and no previous acting experience is necessary.

Students should come to the course expecting to work hard, be challenged and enjoy contributing to the creative process.

No advance preparation is required for this course.

Participants should wear loose, comfortable clothes suitable for dancing – for example leggings and a t-shirt for girls, shorts or light/loose trousers for boys. Be prepared to work without shoes. Bring a notepad and pen/pencil in case you wish to make notes.

Students should bring water and healthy snacks as this course will be very physical. We recommend that a packed lunch is brought to the course as options for buying lunch at the weekend can be limited.

Lesson 1


  • Origin of dance in India: Mythological and historical aspects. (presentation with photographs)
  • Introduction to Natya Shastrathe earliest known treatise on dance and drama in India, written 2000 B.C.


  • Introduction to basic steps of Bharata Natyam.
  • Learning first 14 single hand gestures, their meanings and how to apply them in Indian dance.
  • Start learning the simple choreography of a dance for the final presentation at the end of the course.

Lesson 2


  • 7 different styles of Indian Classical Dances and how their development in different states of India influenced their costumes and techniques. (video and photographs)


  • Continue practicing and learning basic techniques and steps.
  • Learning next 14 single hand gestures and their meanings and revising previous 14.
  • Importance of eye movements in Indian dance – practicing different combinations of eye movements.
  • Revise and learn next part of the dance.

Lesson 3


  • History of BharataNatyam Indian Classical Dance: its journey from Temples to Staged performance; Biggest names in BharataNatyam; Famous institutions of BharataNatyam; (videos and photos)


  • Learning and practicing basic steps
  • Exploring dance moves that are defining Indian Dance: Neck and shoulder movements.
  • Revising 28 single hand gestures
  • Dance practice

Lesson 4


  • 3 Aspects of BharataNatyam and how it makes it different from western forms of dance.
  • 5 Rhythms in Indian dance (interactive learning)
  • How day to day life in Indian depicted in Indian Classical and folk dances


  • Basic steps and their combinations
  • Learning 14 double hand gestures and their meanings
  • Practicing dance

Lesson 5


  • Significance of Mahabharata and Ramayana (famous Indian epics) in Indian dance. How people’s favourite characters from these epics can be easily shown by using hand gestures and body language.
  • Introduction to the main characters of Mahabharata and Ramayana


  • Exploring how basic steps can be combined into dance
  • Learning next 12 double hand gestures
  • Dance practice

Lesson 6


  • Taking into account all the previous lessons: background, history and theory of Indian dance. Together with students come up with the story and act it out using technique of Indian Dance and hand gestures to depict different characters, surroundings and actions.


  • Revision of all dance steps, hand gestures and dance choreography
  • Sharing/performance

Kirsten Newell 

Kirsten Newell is a prominent Bharatnatyam and contemporary dancer. A graduate from Kalakshetra, Chennai, Kirsten has spent the past 10 years working as a professional dancer performing, teaching and creating new works in the UK, India and abroad. There have been several notable productions that she has been part of in the last few years that deal with the contemporisation of Bharatanatyam. These projects include working with celebrated artists such as Subathra Subramaniam, Akademi, Leela Samson, Shane Shambhu, Seeta Patel , ATMA Dance Company, Srishti Dance Creations, Mathangi Keshavan and Vyuti Dance Company.

Her training in ballet and contemporary instilled in her a passion for dance from a young age and in 2006 she began training in Edinburgh with Priya Srikumar; it was from here that her connection with India began. Kirsten went initially to Attakalari Centre for Movement Arts in Bangalore, India. Her love of the form and desire to perfect the technique led her onto the renowned Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai, India. For four years, she immersed herself fully in the essence of Bharatanatyam, its culture and tradition and graduated in 2013 with a first class degree.

Kirsten is passionate about bringing exciting, collaborative, innovative and high quality South Asian dance to the U.K. Kirsten recently co-directed and choreographed MaMa which has toured throughout Scotland and internationally. She is lead artist for Hebridean Treasure: Lost & Found which is about to tour Scotland for the second time.

In 2019 Kirsten began working with Oxana Banshikova. As Kalakshetra graduates with 15 years experience, and under their ‘Cosmic Dance School’ umbrella, they have worked together to grow, popularize and make Bharatanatyam accessible as well as offer high quality innovative dance in its traditional and modern form in Scotland.

Oxana Banchshikova

Oxana Banchshikova is Bharatanatyam teacher, dancer and choreographer originally from Kazakhstan. She is the founder/director of Cosmic Dance Company and Associate Artistic Director of Beyond Bollywood (Hong Kong). In 2019 Oxana moved to Scotland and is working towards establishing herself as well as her Cosmic Dance Company in Edinburgh.

Since starting her company in 2009, Oxana became respected in the field of dance and gained recognition for the contribution to development and popularization of Bharatanatyam dance style in Hong Kong.

Taking up dance at the age of five, Oxana trained and performed in a variety of dance styles, from ballet through to contemporary and jazz, always searching for something special and meaningful in her dance experiences. She found this in Indian Classical Dance and gained inspiration from its rich historical background and unique and complex dance techniques.

Oxana was awarded a scholarship by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) to attend a four-year Bharatanatyam course at the Kalakshetra College of Fine Arts in Chennai, India (2002-2006). She has also completed 3 year course and was awarded 1stclass diploma in Nattuvangam (dance accompaniment) from “Kalapeetam” music school (Chennai, India, 2003-2006)

Since completing her course at Kalakshetra and settling down in Hong Kong, Oxana has performed on numerous occasions, created and directed many solo and group productions. She is never content to remain at one level for long and constantly strives to improve her skills through attending various workshops on dance and yoga in different countries.

She has been spreading her love for Bharatanatyamby teaching it to students of different ages and nationalities for the last 14 years. Her experience of teaching dance to different people has helped her to evolve a unique style of keeping people interested and motivated in learning this dance form outside India.

For the last 10 years Oxana has been researching healthy and safe dance approaches in South Indian dance forms and Bharatanatyam in particular. Her personal experience and also extensive teaching experience to students of various ages showed a need for creating special exercise programmes to prepare the body for the particular stances and movements of Bharatanatyam as well as rehabilitation exercises for acquired pain that may have been caused by certain movements. This led Oxana to completing the Ying Yoga course (deep passive stretch technique) in 2011 and the Pilates teacher certification course by Polestar Pilates in 2018. The Pilates method is well known around the world asa system of exercise and physical movement designed to stretch, strengthen, and balance the body in order to increase its efficiency and healthy function.

Oxana continues to research, practice and teach her students these exercises and hopes to promote the idea that a safe and healthy dance life is possible for all ages, and to continue her dance career as long as possible.

Summer Accommodation

We are pleased to welcome students from across the world to our Summer Schools. Our course fees do not include accommodation or food, and these should be organised by the student. Our campus is located in Glasgow city centre, and you can find the addresses below.

We recommend Base Glasgow, as purpose-built accommodation for Conservatoire students, with Rehearsal Rooms, Practice spaces and Dance Studios. Base Glasgow is perfectly suited for our summer school students; both safe and secure, with 24/7 staff presence and only 3 mins walk from our main Renfrew Street building, keeping travel costs to a minimum.

Classic En-Suite rooms come with a 3/4 bed, en-suite bathroom, ample storage, mirror, study desk and chair. The shared area includes a spacious lounge and kitchen area.

Please note that Short Courses staff are not affiliated with BASE or on site outwith the summer school teaching hours, and therefore cannot take responsibility for students outside of these hours.

For more information about booking accommodation at BASE Glasgow you can contact them directly via website BASE – Student Accommodation in Glasgow or email

Alternatively, there are plenty of hotels, hostels, and b’n’b options available. We are located close to transport links should you wish to stay outside the city centre. If you are travelling to Glasgow for a course, we strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance that covers course fees, travel, accommodation, and cancellations due to COVID-19 – as RCS will not refund in this circumstance. You can view the Cancellations and Refund policy for full information.

For students under 18 years old, we strongly advise travelling with a responsible adult should any emergency situations arise during class. Students are only monitored by staff during class times.

Renfrew Street Campus: 100 Renfrew Street, Glasgow, G2 3DB
Wallace Studios Campus: 210 Garscube Road, Glasgow, G4 9RR

Further Information

We want to ensure as many children, young people and adult learners as possible can access the performing and production arts education that is offered through Short Courses at RCS. Financial support options available for Short Courses include:

Agnes Allan Bursary

Agnes Allan was a teacher, passionate about inclusion, and this bursary scheme exists to offer support to students to participate in the performing or production arts.

The Agnes Allan Bursary provides some support to students who may require financial assistance to take part in a short course in dance, drama, music, production or screen.

Anyone who wishes to take part in our Short Courses and faces a financial barrier can apply for bursary support to help meet the cost of tuition fees.

James McAvoy Drama Scholarships

BAFTA-winning and Golden Globe nominated actor James McAvoy is committed to nurturing the creative potential of young Scots who experience barriers to access and participate in drama at RCS Short Courses.

James is a graduate of the BA Acting programme at RCS and Patron of the Junior Conservatoire of Drama. The Glasgow-born actor has funded the new James McAvoy Drama Scholarships to enable young people to experience the world-class drama training at RCS as he did.

The scholarship aims to support applicants who would otherwise find meeting the cost of tuition fees at RCS a barrier to accessing pre-Higher Education drama training at the Royal Conservatoire.

You can find more information about these funds on our Financial Support page.

We run various promotional offers for our Short Courses and Summer Schools. You can view our current offers on our Promotional Offers page.

You should contact us at to request your discount code before booking a course.

Please note, only one promotional offer can be applied per course and should be used at the time of booking as we are unable to apply a discounts retrospectively.

Please see our Short Course FAQs for more information about all aspects of choosing, booking and attending your course.

Please see our Short Courses – Terms and Conditions for more information about your contract with Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and Cancellation and Refund policies.

Sign up to our mailing list to receive the latest updates of courses, offers and news from Short Courses. You can do this by completing this short online form found here.

Short Courses

Summer Schools


Bursary and Scholarship