THE ANCIENT classical Indian dance form known as Bharata Natyam is one of the most beautifully austere of movement styles. Originally a temple dance, Bharata Natyam has evolved into a solo form performed by South Indian women, accompanied by singers and cymbalists.

So it piques one's interest to learn of a West Indian male who has mastered these dances. Stewart Carrera first became interested in the movement, music and movies of India while growing up in Trinidad, which boasts a large Indian population. Formal training in his chosen art began seven years ago, when he underwent rigorous instruction by masters in this country and abroad, the most recent being Guru K.N. Dakshanamoothy of the Natyakalalayam School in New Delhi. Upon graduation he received the title of Nayta Ratna, Dancing Jewel.

Carrera's repertoire is vast, and his two recitals this weekend will feature almost completely different programs. Yet certain characteristics flow through all of these dances: incredibly complex rhythms, hands and fingers that twist and curl into precise and lovely positions (in fact, these positions, or mudras, constitute a complete sign language), whole-body poses that call to mind centuries-old carvings both erotic and innocent. STEWART CARRERA --

Friday at 8, Sunday at 3 at American University's McDonald Recital Hall. 270-4012.