Prof. C V Chandrasekhar speaks
at Dhanya's arangetram on July 27th in Annandale, Virginia
I have always had my own reservations about the young aspirants of Bharatanatyam going onto the stage to give their debut performance for their arangetram. It is a very beautiful idea that was thought about centuries back. The Shilapadikaram, which is supposed to be one of the earliest of Tamil works, is dated to around the second century.
Wherever the reference is made to the arangetram of Madhavi, who was a dancer, and one of the main characters of the play, it is said she underwent a very, very rigorous training for about seven years, before she was introduced on the stage to perform before the king. And the king, if he found her fit enough, would shower her with innumerable amount of gold sovereigns. A dancer really had to be that good to be examined by a king, who is not one of our many dignitaries whom we invite to the arangetrams and recitals, but a very, very knowledgeable art-lover, art-critic, well-trained in the different arts of music and dance. So she really had to be very, very competent before she came to the stage.
The word Dhanya in Sanskrit means the blessed one. Dhanya is really blessed today for having given us a very beautiful debut performance. My mentor and preceptor, Srimathi Rukmani Devi, always said, that dance should elevate the human being, it should be very spiritual, and no matter what religion we follow, spirituality is beyond all religions.
The atmosphere that a dance should create should be spiritual...it should be a spiritual elevation. And I found today's debut performance spiritually elevating. There was a whole amount of serenity that pervaded though the entire space here, the auditorium, while Dhanya was performing. Although I had choreographed many of the pieces she performed, I felt that in her dancing, all these pieces that she performed received something very different from what I have seen with my own items performed by many of the dancers. That is what dance should really do.
Dance is not an entertainment as many people think. Music and dance is to give us happiness, to spiritually take us up from all the mundane problems that we face everyday and if dance would really do that, I think it is a contribution that the dance has done. I feel the atmosphere was just right for an arangetram because I am so used to being on arangetrams that are very, very loud in every way. There is too much noise in the music, there is too much of ornamentation for the dancer, there is too much of everything. But this is one of the arangetrams, which has made me happy because of the simplicity of the whole thing. Regarding her dance, of course she has to grow much as a dancer both in her virtuosity, for performing the rhythmic part of the dance and also the abhinaya. A dancer really grows every time she performs on the stage. What you saw of the expression of Mary Magdelene, or the subtleness of the nayika in her varnam, was proof that she has great potential to do abhinaya.
Abhinaya literally means to lead towards the audience. If it has created something in us, if it has created the rasa in us, I think her day is done. When the Jathiswaram started, it was in a very slow tempo and she did full justice to that speed of the Jathiswaram. In second part of the varnam, which was in a very fast tempo, she was equally adept. So this is something that every dancer should cultivate, to be able to execute the movements, whether it is a slow tempo or a fast tempo. I was worried at a point, when she had to do a particular movement and I was wondering how she was going to execute it in that fast tempo, but I think she swam very well against the storm.
The musicians basically are the nerves of the dancer. The musicians, when they see a dancer executing in a beautiful way, also receive the response and give out their best. I think all the musicians today have given out their best to make Dhanya's arangetram a great success.
Generally I speak very, very little about the dancers in the arangetram, I speak about their gurus but today I felt that it was a very wonderful occasion, for me to be here and all this has been possible for Dhanya because of her dedication. Although she is young, she has been practicing for more than 12 years, which is the right time for a dancer to come on the stage for her arangetram...not two years or six months, or three years period that doesn't give the dancer any profound training.