featured in 2012

Dec 9, 2012

Dear Guru Mrinalini-ji,

I completed six years of Bharatanatyam @ Darpana long time ago. I took a break and completed my 7th year and arangetram in 1998 from Archan Academy’s Guru Keta didi, also a student of Darpan Academy. Recently I was embarrassed as I did not know the answer to this question when I was asked "what was the dance style? " Could you please answer this question so next time I'm well prepared.

Thank you,

Dear Ashita

Darpana follows the elements of Pandanallur style of Bharatanatyam.  This style is very strong in all the adavus, taught by my Guru Sri Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai in Pandanallur.  I also learnt abhinaya from Vidwan Ellappa.  With my personal inputs, I expanded the form and the body to fit larger stages and larger audiences. So now there is a Darpana style. And that is what I and all of us here learn and perform.

With best wishes
Mrinalini Sarabhai

Jul 2, 2012

Respected Mrinalini Didi,

I am a Bharatnatyam student. My question is - which is correct - Arangetram and Arangetral?
In Arangetram, is only traditional Margam performed? I want your views in this regard.

Thanking you,
Vasanti Joshi

Dear Vasanti Joshi

Both are correct.  In Tamilnadu, it is Arangetram or Arangetral and in north India it is Rangapravesh.  Regions may change but all have the same connotation and denote the first appearance of a performing art student on stage.  In Tamil, Arang means stage and Etral or Ettram mean to climb.

Yes, in an Arangetram only traditional Margam is performed. Sometimes, in the Padams there is a variety according the choice of the dancer.

With best wishes
Mrinalini Sarabhai

May 31, 2012

Respected Guru,

I would like to know from you on how one can pursue a PhD in Bharatanatyam. My aim is to learn and analyze more the technique, history and culture behind the art form. I have seen a few universities offering a PhD course but I am not sure if doing such a conventional course would fulfill my desire. I would like to approach several Gurus and expose myself to the different perspectives of Bharatanatyam. But I am not sure if I could just directly ask them or if there is a certain procedure to do so. Could you please help me and throw some light on the different possibilities.

Thank you very much and I hope you do not mind me calling you Guru. I have learnt a lot from you.
Deep salutations
a disciple

Dear 'disciple'

I have referred the first part of your question to a senior faculty of Performing Arts in a prominent performing arts college (under Gujarat University) in Ahmedabad and his reply is given below:

"With regard to a PhD in Bharata Natyam the basic criteria as per UGC norms is that you should have cleared your NET (National Eligibility Test) which you can appear for after your Masters is complete, by filling the form online on the UGC portal. Some Universities also accept if you have done your M.Phil.

Now there is a general entrance test for applying for PhD. The test deals with all subjects, not necessarily performing arts.

Once you have passed the test, you have to register in a University that has the provision to do a PhD in Bharata Natyam. Not all Universities have the provision. Once you register you have to submit a synopsis on which you are planning to do your Phd. Your synopsis goes to the Board of Studies Department in the University. They will decide a guide for you as per the subject you have chosen. For six months you have to work under that Guide and then prepare a note on the methodology of the final subject. The Guide could change the subject as per their discretion.

Once this is done and approved by the department you can register with the University and pay up your fees to begin your Phd."

In a changing scenario, I suggest you do a Phd if you are pursuing a career out of it and also to have the theoretical knowledge.  It is best to work with a guru directly for practical knowledge of Bharatanatayam and it is absolutely necessary.

Personally, I have had the fortunate chance to study with the greatest of gurus.  While the guru – shishya relationship was there, the gurus gave me much affection as they felt that I had come to the art of nritta through love of it and not because I was born into a nattuvanar’s family.

With best wishes,
Mrinalini Sarabhai

Jan 17, 2012

Hello Mrinalini-ji,

I'm currently 16 years old. I'm a non Indian westerner, and I've been learning Bharatanatyam for a few months. I have some questions that I hope you can answer.

1. How much and how should you practice daily?
I want to improve but I'm not really sure what proper practicing would be.

2. What do you do when you're just really frustrated about learning this art form?
I truly love Bharatanatyam. It's a spiritual experience and I'm able to express myself. But I feel out of place at times in class. I know it's not intentional, but it can just be awkward. Bharatanatyam isn't something that you instantly become good at, but I just don't know what to do to remind myself that I can do this.

3. Do arangetrams have to be so expensive these days?
Even though I'm far from having my arangetram (which I plan to have), but due to the expense it seems that I should be saving now. My classmates' arangetrams cost "half a wedding"! My family doesn't have the funds they do, and it just makes me feel isolated at times.

Thank you so much,
Dear L,

 1) Practice the adavus for at least one hour every day.  When it comes to the items, you will have to take more time.  There is no limit to the time you practice, as ultimately, it depends on the individual.

2) You can’t learn in frustration, so stop worrying about it.  Be positive and go on with your practice.  Over a period, enthusiasm would take the place of frustration provided you work hard.

3) Don't worry about the arangetram.  Though we cannot prevent arangetrams from being expensive, we have a choice in our own performances.  If you have a space in your home, invite a few special friends and do your arangetram. I believe that if the spiritual aspect is emphasized, everything else becomes immaterial.

Best wishes for a meaningful New Year 2012
Mrinalini V Sarabhai