Solo Bharatanatyam Arangetram performance by Shruti Parekh 
by Deepika Bahri  
 
August 22, 2004   

 
Shruti, a rising junior at Paideia School, and daughter of Pushpa and Bharat Parekh, gave a three hour solo Bharatanatyam Arangetram performance at Roswell Cultural Arts Center, on July 17, 2004. She has been learning the ancient and revered form of Bharatanatyam, for the last ten years from Chandrika Chandran, Director of Natyanjali, in Atlanta. To Shruti's credit, she has qualified for her Arangetram at the young age of 16.  

Shruti performed nine dance pieces depicting the range of the Bharatanatyam repertoire, incorporating the three elements of 'Nritta', 'Nritya' and 'Natya. The accompanying orchestra featured talented local artists, Sujatha Rayburn (vocal), Subra Viswanathan (Mridangam), and Deepak Murthy (violin). Shruti's performance received a standing ovation from critics, artists and well wishers.  

The audience responded enthusiastically to Shruti's performance as she displayed her mastery of the nine traditional Arangetram pieces. The program started with a traditional prayer song to invoke the blessings of Lord Shiva, the Supreme Dancer. Shruti made her entrance with Pushpanjali, a devotional offering to Nataraja, the dancing Shiva, followed by slokas to Ganesha and Alarippu, set to the devotional hymn Thirupugazh. In the next piece, Jathiswaram, the dancer brought alive the intricacies of the composition in which the swaras are set to various jathis to fit in the framework of thalam.  

Shruti demonstrated the narrative and expressive aspects of the dance form in Sabdam, by evoking the devotee's sentiments of love and rejection as she beseeches Lord Rama's presence. This was followed by a forty-five minute Varnam on Lord Muruga. Varnam is the traditional test of the performer's mastery of the dramatic elements through coordination of facial expression, hand gestures and intricate footwork. Shruti executed this piece with grace and depth of feeling, moving the audience to experience rasa (aesthetic flavor), bhava (emotion), and abhinayam (expression).  

The items following the Intermission included Palvadiyum Mugham, describing the beauty of Lord Krishna, Sri Raja Rajeswari in praise of Goddess Meenakshi, and Aadenamma, manifesting the energetic dance of Lord Shiva, the Supreme dancer.  The performance elicited audience applause several times, especially as Shruti depicted the nine emotions or 'Nava Rasas.' Following the vote of thanks, Shruti rendered the Thillana, an elaborate sequence of pure dance involving a fine display of dexterity in footwork. Ending with Mangalam, the performance captured the spirit and beauty of the art. 

Expressing their enthusiastic appreciation of the performance were faculty from Spelman College and Emory, scientists from CDC, Natyanjali dance students, Paideia school students and faculty, community members, and dance critics and supporters. Martha Caldwell, 7th and 8th Grade Paideia teacher, who had watched the rehearsal earlier, summed up her experience: "I was so touched by your performance. I expected it to be amazing, but I wasn't prepared for the level of spiritual sophistication you have achieved. You stand in a tradition of women who have the power to bring heaven to earth. What greater power can anyone have? Congratulations. 

As I watched Shruti's performance with growing wonder at her skill, stamina, and immersion in the spirit of the dance, I knew why we associate youth with hope and promise for the future. 

Shruti has performed at various venues throughout her course of study. She has danced at the Natyanjali annual recital, cultural and religious festivals in the Hindu Temple of Atlanta, the Spelman College International Honor Society Induction Ceremony, the International Day, and at the Atlanta International School. She recently participated in a workshop on the art of Bharatanatyam led by Revathi Ramachandran from Chennai, India. Shruti's teacher, Chandrika Chandran, who had her initial training under the late Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai, is the first President of AABHA (Atlanta Association of Bharatnatyam) and a well recognized Bharatanatyam dancer.