Report 

Indian Dance Theatre for schools: Aarambh... The beginning 
 
 
February 20, 2007 

Presenting an intense Indian philosophy in Sanskrit in an audience-friendly manner, with original, new music in the traditional Carnatic style, Aarambh explores the interplay of dualism merging into one, the creation of the world itself.  

There is an intrinsic need to respect people, animals and nature around us. It is in this reverence that we can find peace and happiness. It is especially true that when we consider how the Lord made this world all from Himself, this respect becomes inevitable and a surprisingly simple solution for all of today's problems. Predictably irrespective of religion this universal truth remains. Although we see man and woman, both are just two faces of the same energy. This concept of union of the two forces, merging into one is signified in the Hindu philosophy as Ardhanarishwara (Ardha - half, nari woman and Iswara man). 

From top clockwise
Vaishnavi, Nivedita, Sonalia and Aashana
 
Deepa, Archana, Navya and Archana
Deepa and Archana as Shiva and Parvathi
In Aarambh, Upasana has brought together senior artistes from the Northwest. The audience was mixed. There was an all boys school, students from a city school, another group from a town, students from a highly challenged group and another from a highly gifted and commended students. "It was extremely gratifying to see all sitting awe struck by the performance. It is an ode to art, a tribute to its unifying force. This is the first time Indian theatre is open to schools. With popular demand we hope to give more schools this possible exposure in the future," says Deepa Ganesh, Artistic Director of Upasana.  

The Mayor of Manchester, David Sandiford was welcomed by 8 year old Nivedita, the youngest dancer of Aarambh, with a traditional Indian shawl.  

Common questions asked by students after the performance were: How do you remember? Will your feet not hurt? Vaishnavi's answer for both was "Practice!!" How long do you take to get ready? "2 to 3 hours," says Nivedita.  

Ten year old Rebecca Reed is a student of Manchester High School for Girls who had gone to see Aarambh along with her classmates as a school trip. Here are her impressions.  

On Thursday 8th February at the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale, Upasana an Indian dance group presented a touching performance of "Aarambh...the beginning." It was notable that this was the first time schools were getting an opportunity to visit an Indian classical dance theatre. It was uncompromising in quality and yet interesting and accessible to all. 

The story is about a school which is celebrating a special day on India. During playtime a few students start bullying and being nasty to others. The teacher steps in and explains that it is important to respect everything and everyone. She then reminds them how God in unification with illusion symbolising man and woman, created the world and the five elements along with the five senses, all from Himself. 

The dancing was phenomenal and enthralling. The audience was amazed how the dancers stamped their feet on hard floor making loud noise! We asked Vaishnavi (one of the child artistes in the performance) who said that it did not hurt as they were used to it after hours of practice. The moves looked extremely complicated and no one understood how they memorized all the steps. It was interesting to see the whole play, characters and emotions, enacted through dance. 

The young enthusiastic dancers were Nivedita, Sonalia, Vaishnavi and Aashana. The experienced senior dancers were Archana Senathirajah as Parvati, the teacher Deepa as Shiva, and Navya as the other dancer. 

The costumes were as mesmerizing as the dance. They were unique and it symbolized the character and personality. The bold make up and jewellery looked eye catching even from a distance. The long flowing silk skirts of the children complimented well with the elegant sari of the adults. From anklets and bells in their feet to a bindi in their forehead they looked enchanting. 

The music was quite traditional and classic and created the mood with the dance merging into it. 

Overall, Aarambh was wonderful. It makes you think as to what really matters and how you have to respect everything and everyone. Also that everyone is equal. No one is any more important than another.