arangetram in the Washington DC area
On 22nd April,
Dipika Mouli performed her Arangetram at the Ernst Cultural Center in Virginia.
Dipika is 17 years old, a senior at Thomas Wootton High School, Rockville,
Maryland. About 400 people attended her Arangetram for which she has been
practicing for the past 8 months.
K Kasturi, Hyderabad
May 10, 2007
auspicious start with the Sama Veda chanting by Vedic Priests, the dance
programme commenced with the Pushpanjali in Naattai which was followed
by a kirtanai dedicated to the Goddess Rajarajeswari “Paahimam Sri Rajarajeswari”
in Janaranjani before proceeding to the Varnam in Ananda Bhairavi. A break
for drinks and costume change at this juncture came much too early in the
recital. Three padams dedicated to Siva, Muruga and Krishna came after
the intermission and these were rounded off by a Vote of Thanks by the
parents Mouli and Mira paving way to the Thillana in Simhendramadhyamam.
in Khanda Chapu talam was simple, there was more scope in the next piece
Sri Rajarajeswari in Adi with the varied postures of the Goddesses, which
went down well with the audience and got the young dancer appreciative
claps. The Varnam in Ananda Bhairavi and Adi talam was a let down. Being
the most complex piece of the repertoire which ought to have shown the
virtuosity of the dancer, a more dynamic number would have been appropriate.
Kaalai Thooki Aadum in Bhagyashree, which describes the beauty and grandeur
of Nataraja’s dance, gave the dancer another opportunity to burst into
various poses with its appropriate choreography. Valli Kanavan Perai in
Senjuruti, a Kaavadi Chindu was definitely Dipti’s forte; a folksy
number with a peppy beat brought out the grace that is hers if only she
lets the dancer in her free. Alaipaayude in Kaanada had a slow tempo, but
the lyrics which speak of a Naayika's undying passion that reverberate
in her heart, preventing her from concentrating on anything else, needed
a more kinetic execution. Thillana in Mattya talam picked up pace from
Alaipaayude. The spatial construct was precise and the dancer was quite
adept in making use of the large stage not confining herself to one area.
emotion through her pursed lips and excessive eyebrow movement did not
add to her loose Angikabhinaya. It was only when she was performing Alaipaayude
that she came into her own a little bit, though the pining that goes into
a Virahothkhandita is not a child’s play. It would need more than being
in high school to feel the pangs of separation and desperate longing. The
song though very well choreographed was out of place in an Arangetram for
such a young person, who could obviously not do justice to this tempestuous
item. Ardhamandali was lacking, half-completed teermanams gave one an impression
that the artiste was in a hurry, that she was not enjoying what she was
doing. Her footwork was out of synch at times but the overall confidence
revealed hours of practice, unfortunately not adequate enough to be effortless.
three hours, a very seamlessly executed event enthralled the audience which
comprised a mixed lot. Many Indians of course but also friends and teachers
of the young high school dancer which meant a cultural motley of Indian-American,
Chinese-American, African-American to mention a few ethnicities. Such a
cross section of audience always ensures that the program starts on time,
people stand in queues in the restroom, there is a master of ceremonies
explaining the items which would normally be left to the vague knowledge
of the viewer to decipher.
Cultural Center in Virginia has been the venue of many a dance performance.
It is a good stage with good acoustics. Though some work could have gone
into the lighting, which could have been more stylized to suit the mood
of each piece, the overall effect was that of a professionally organized
show. The rest of the arrangements were no less than that of a wedding.
It is about
time though that the patrons of art, who can afford such Arangetram extravaganzas,
also invest in taking up the challenge of presenting contemporary themes.
With such varied issues affecting our present day lives it would be foolish
to become ensconced in the traditional repertoire. Keeping the purity of
art alive is no hindrance to conceiving new frontiers of expression. Most
youngsters are turning away from this age old means of reaching out to
the divine because it lacks any social context. For eg, how topical is
a Naayika pining away for a lover who is quite busy with other women? In
the modern context such a man would be a prime target for verbal abuse!!
How can we expect young high school girls to convincingly portray the uncontrollable
emotions surging in the heart of a lovelorn maiden directed towards such
the motivation behind the mechanics of any art is the key in making an
artiste complete. It differentiates the great dancer from a mediocre one.
Compulsory reading of dance theory, dance history, dance biographies, watching
other dance performances, seeking to appreciate the context and subtext
of lyrics, knowledge of mythologies etc goes into creating a suitable subconscious
for a dancer. Since an Arangetram is only the beginning of a life long
pursuit of excellence, Dipti has ample opportunity to learn and improve.
She has already proven her commitment by engaging her time and energy in
musicians and singers rendered the orchestra. Nattuvangam was ably performed
by guru Radha Ganeshan, her deep throated booming voice is just right for
the orthodox Thanjavur style that she teaches her students. S Venkatraman
on vocals is the first choice for most dancers performing in the area,
though when singing the Kaavadi Chindu, his voice unfortunately lost its
zest. This song more than any other, needed his ample support. On the mridangam
was Mahesh Krishnamurthy. On the violin, Sandhya Srinath. V Kalyan Raman
on the flute stole the show. The choreography was by Radha Ganeshan’s gurus,
Mahalingam Pillai and CV Chandrasekhar and she herself choreographed Alaipaayude.
It is wonderful
to see, despite carping that money is spent like water for such events,
that the youngsters who are the repositories of this age old tradition
are continuing to seek and learn Bharatanatyam in a land with so many distractions.
This is definitely a merit in itself.
by qualification and a writer by vocation, Krishna K Kasturi is currently
a film maker who enjoys living in Hyderabad as well as in Washington DC.
She is a Bharatanatyam dancer indulging in her love for dance by putting
it down in writing.