Arangetrams: Gaining popularity and making a cultural statement
by Padma Chebrolu, Cincinnati, OH
Photographs: Niteen Bapat
August 16, 2004
|Arangetrams (or Ranga
Pravesams) showcase the great tradition of passing on the knowledge of
dance from the teacher to the student. This process also happens with other
art forms, but the grandeur of dance Arangetrams is exceptional. This shows
the appreciation of the people toward dance and its ever-growing popularity
in our communities. Coming to the Arangetram level in classical Indian
dance is more than preparing for a world-class athletic competition. It
demands focus, physical endurance, drive, and determination. Understanding
the religion, mythology and culture becomes essential. Arangetram is a
major milestone for a dancer toward possibly becoming a world class dancer.
Usually serious preparation for an Arangetram starts a year ahead. This is a dream come true to all the parents and families of a dancer. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child - in America, in this context we can say; it takes a whole village to have an Arangetram. Many aunts and uncles come to the rescue of the parents. Mother of the dancer becomes a project manager. All the uncles and aunts divide themselves into sub-teams such as; dinner team, decoration team, reception team, stage team, audio and video team, and help the dancer team.
The photo shoot is scheduled six months ahead of time to ensure photos can be included in the invitations and the program brochures. Some parents and the dancer even make a trip to India to get the dance costumes custom made, buy the jewelry, print the invitations and program brochures and purchase other related items.
Some Arangetrams are large scale and some are more intimate depending on the wishes of the dancer and his or her parents' wishes. Guests number range anywhere from fifty to four hundred or more. Arangetrams may include dinner after the show, while others may not. Some Arangetrams are open to anyone and some are by invitation only. Including the live orchestra, musicians can be local or from other cities in US or from India. Live orchestra may not be used due to the complexity involved, so some choose to use pre-recorded music. Some parents bring in well-known people in the community as the guest of honor and some prefer to honor the dancer's grandparents.
As the Arangetram gets closer, the dancer rehearses the program everyday to build up the physical stamina, the fluency and perfection. Great emphasis is given to the facial expression and 'story telling' technique. A week or two before the show, the dress rehearsal takes place. All the details of the show presentation are finalized.
The elegant dancer makes his or her grand appearance on the stage and offers his or her prayers to the Gods and performs each dance with devotion. Dedication to the art form becomes evident in the dancer's every movement and expression. Audiences cannot believe the transformation that happens to the young woman or man they have known for years. During the interval, guests enjoy hot samosa, pakora and sweet chai. They cannot stop discussing how wonderful the performance has been. The second half of the program showcases dancers in a different dance attire. The dancer performs with even more enthusiasm and steals the hearts of the audiences with dances such as Varnam, Tillana and so on. At the end, the dancer usually receives a standing ovation for his or her courage, work ethic and mastering the art form.
Arangetrams definitely play a significant role in the field of dance education and also in the cultural preservation in our communities. All that matters is that the dancer received the art form with devotion and respect. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to ensure we pass on the good values and traditions to our younger generation.
I would like to thank Deepa and Ashok Khambe for sharing the photographs of their daughter, Swati's Arangetram.