A star is born 
- Balachandran Seetharaman
 

October 10, 2006  

 
Shilpa Sridhar completed her Bharatanrityam dance arangetram on Sept 9, 2006 at the Broward Main Library Auditorium at the tender age of 10. 

Shilpa is schooled in a unique dance style created by the living legend and the dance genius Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam.  Shilpa learnt this style from her mother Sangeetha Sridhar who is a direct disciple of Padma Subrahmanyam.  The style requires a demonstration of rigorous footwork, abhinaya, mudras, bhavas, eye movements and poses blended with a unique style of fluid body movements. Costumes skillfully chosen for Shilpa enhanced the overall presentation. 
 

Shilpa was a picture of confidence throughout. She started her performance with a Mallari and Kauthvam.  These are invocatory dances to set the mood of piety on stage and in the minds of the audience. The dancer sought the blessings from the Gods, spiritual masters, gurus, accompanying artists and the audience. The Jathiswaram followed this, where Shilpa demonstrated her mastery over the dance fundamentals. Traditionally, this item is also a "warm-up" for the main items that follow.

The next song "Ananda Natamaduvar Thillai" sung in the beautiful ragam Poorvi Kalyani is an all-time favorite among dance connoisseurs. The song is in praise of the Lord of Dance, Shiva, who was present on stage in Thillai blessing the devotees who came to witness his cosmic dance. 

Varnam is the most complicated piece in any dance performance. It combines all aspects of dance in one song. Bhava, Raga and Thala come together in this item. Shilpa's rendition of Lord Krishna eating mud and showing the entire world to her mother Yasoda was charming. It was a treat to watch Shilpa alternate from being Krishna in one moment and Yasoda in the next moment changing her facial expressions and body postures rapidly.  When the artist crosses the Varnam in an Arangetram performance, she is a lot more than half way to a successful finish and so far, Shilpa had passed with flying colors. 

The Mahalakshmi Ashtakam was the next item in praise of Goddess Lakshmi.  This song gave ample opportunity to Shilpa to display her skills in bhava as each of the Ashta Lakshmi.  The story of Adi Sankaracharya singing the Kanaka Dhara slokam was elaborated while describing Dhana Lakshmi. 

The next dance number was a special treat for the residents of South Florida.  This song was a composition of Shilpa's grandmother Vasumathy Swamy, in which Shilpa displayed a playful mood and joyously invites Lord Muruga to come to South Florida and play with her. This song set to raga Brindavana Saranga, was sung by Swamy herself, adding a warm touch to the entire concert. At the end of the song, Shilpa portrayed Lord Muruga as coming to South Florida on a peacock, much to everyone's delight.

Being a family of Bhagawan Sathya Sai Baba devotees, Shilpa's dance performance would not be complete without a song praising him. When Shilpa took the Padukas of Sri Sai Baba in procession, it moved many in the audience. The final item of the performance was Thillana in which Shilpa demonstrated her mastery over the nritta aspect of dance and speed without missing a beat. The dancer transformed herself into many sculpturesque poses. The program then concluded with Mangalam.

Live music for a dance performance is very essential.  Being the disciple of musical genius Balamuralikrishna, vocalist Sudev Warrier demonstrated his extraordinary talent through the entire performance with his divine voice. Sangeetha Sridhar, the mother and guru of Shilpa, ably provided Nattuvangam. Sudhaman on the mridangam showed a lot of energy and precision.  Krishnaprasad on the flute took us all to a special plane. On the violin was our very own talented Sanjay Chandran of South Florida.  Swetha Vittal Prasad kept the audience informed with adequate explanations for each dance item.  The video presentation after the intermission about the growing years of Shilpa was entertaining. A new star is shining in South Florida and the audience got up in the end for a well-deserved standing ovation. 

The decorations made by Vijaya Para and her team of volunteers were aesthetic as usual.  The kolams, lamps, pictures etc at the entrance to the hall took us to some place we have all been to in India. The elegant decorations on stage provided good ambiance and enhanced the dance performance. 

Arangetram is not a goal but a stepping-stone in the path of an artist.  Having successfully completed her Arangetram, we all hope Shilpa will continue to learn and perform in South Florida and elsewhere in the world. Talented youngsters like Shilpa become the focal points for the spread of the Indian art form in the Western world.  Through their continued efforts and performances, they inspire other youngsters and help keep the art alive. May Lord Nataraja bless Shilpa with continued success.  Hearty congratulations to Shilpa's family for working hard to identify and bring out her talent.