In ancient times a professional female dancer was called as Patra.
The Abhinayadharpana has a sloka that says
Javaha Sthiratwam Rekha cha
Bhramari Drishti Shramaha
Medha Shraddha Vacho Geetham
Paathra praanaa Dasha Smruthaha
which are the ten essential qualities of a professional dancer.
1. Javaha – Agility
Ability to change the postures rapidly without losing the body balance
2. Sthirathwam – Steadiness
Ability to maintain the postures while dancing slow or fast
3. Rekhacha – graceful lines
The entire body is assumed to be a mass which is equally divisible along the central meridian. Every movement shall be done in such a way that the weight of the body is perfectly balanced to get the samabhangi or Tribhangi.
4. Bhramari – balance in circling movements
Circling movements steadily
5. Drishtir – Glancing Eyes
Glancing eyes are very important in a dance performance. It is said where the hand goes, there should the eyes and when you do this your mind naturally gets involved & concentrated in the dance and thus the expression comes out involuntarily.
6. Shramaha – Hard work / Endurance
Not only in dance but in everything you do you need this endurance; the regular practice that builds in confidence, hope that pursue you to perfection.
7. Medha – Intelligence
Abhinayadharpana says that a female dancer should be clever, courteous in behavior, bold and free from indolence.
8. Shradha – Devotion & Concentration
Paying attention and staying focused is the most important factor as performing a dance involves the harmonious movements of the anga’s and the pratyanga’s and also the abhinaya.
Devotion to the art helps you seek in depth knowledge about the art and gets you to imbibe as much perfection as you could in performing this art.
9. Vacho – Good Speech
The dancer should have the ability of giving good and clear speech.
10. Geetam – Ability to Singing and understanding music
The dancer should be able to understand music and also should have the ability to sing inorder to have awareness of when to dance and when to stop and with the rhythm of the music.
A professional danseuse (patra), according to the Abhinaya Darpana, must possess the following qualities:
She has to be youthful, slender, beautiful, with large eyes, with well-rounded breasts, self-confident, witty, pleasing, well aware of when to dance and when to stop, able to follow the flow of songs and music, and to dance to the time (thalam), with splendid costumes and of a happy disposition