Head : Greeva Bheda, the Science of head movements.

Getting back to our upward trajectory of exploring the dancers body, we left off at Hands – the Power of Two, and now we are back with the Head as part of the 45 Days of Dance Stories blogging project.
As a classical dancer, especially a Bharatnatyam Dancer, when I think of the head and its uses, I immediately think of Greeva Bheda or Sheero Bheda. The anthology of head movements delineated within the dance form by Bharata in his treatise to all performing artists, titled the Natya-Shastra.
Sheero Bheda covers head movements that are extremely specific, they fall into 9 defined movements. They range from the head and neck being kept straight (sama), to the movement of the head right to left (Dhootam).
Stated in the shloka/verse below –

Sama udvahitam adhomukha-lolitam Dhutam
kampitam cha paravrittam ukshiptam parivahitam

navdhakathitam shirasa natyashastra visharadaihi.
The 9 head movements are :
  1. Sama : The head kept straight
  2. Udvahitam : Head Looking upwards
  3. Adhomukham : Looking Down
  4. Alolitam: Circular Movement of the head
  5. Dhutam: Right to left movement of the head
  6. Kampitam: Up and down nod of the head
  7. Paravrittam: Brisk turning of the head to the right or left
  8. Ukshiptam: Head is turned and raised or a slanting position of the head.
  9. Parivahittam: Quick small shakes of the head.
These prescribed head movements, that have been collated and passed down through thousands of years from Master to apprentice, as encoded knowledge that enables and aides a dancer in their form. However, this technique and expression at times seems stifling. Seems like an erected wall that was once helpful, but now is binding. Practice is like a drug, needed to sustain the art-form, to feed the body. But, whenever I feel boxed in, or that technique is overpowering the soul, I remember Martha Graham’s words :
“The body is your instrument in dance, but your art is outside that creature, the body.”
and then, I find my art, I find my soul, I move beyond my body, and I just dance!

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