In Kannada, Alaripu literally means the blossoming of a flower- “Alar” meaning flower and “ippu” meaning lowering or bringing down. It suggests the blossoming of both dance and dancer in the presence of an audience.
Alarippu is the first item in a Bharatnatyam recital. It is an invocatory dance performed at the beginning of the recital, like offering obeisance to the Gods and audience, where through a series of pure nritta movements of the face and other parts of the body, the body is dedicated to God.
It is like a warm – up dance for the entire dance performance. It can be set to any five jaatis using sollukattu syllables. The movement of all major and minor limbs is involved in this number. It is performed to the rhythm of the mridangam. Beginning with a standing posture (samabhanga), the movements of the neck, shoulder and arms are introduced with great charm, followed by the ardhamandali position, with a final sequence in the complete mandali position. The number ends with a small adavu or dance unit ending in a teermanam. The dance commences quietly and gradually builds up the tempo of bodily movements to reach a climax. It is a perfect example of a pure (nritta) abstract dance sequence which involves no abhinaya, executed through a number of concentrated yet elemental rhythmic patterns. It is performed in all three speeds in a cyclical ascending fashion to fit perfectly into the prescribed talam, be it chatusra, tisra, khanda, misra or sangeerna.
The Alarippu has been so consummately planned that it looks new every time we see it. Though it is one of the initial items that a dance student starts learning, a tremendous amount of thinking has been put into the organization of the Alarippu which looks so simple and yet so spontaneous.