The dream and the dance  
- Sumi Krishnan, Sydney 

October 14, 2006  

Behind every arangetram is the story of a mother's dream, a grandmother's wishes, teacher's vision, a dancer's dedication and a community of well wishers.  

This is about the dream arangetram (debut performance) of a young Australian Indian Sruthi Ravi, taught under the nurturing tutelage of the well known Sydney based dancer of Kalakshetra, Padma Balakumar, director of Nritya Griha School of South Indian Classical Dance. Nimble and light-footed and blessed with a pleasing stage presence, Sruthi sailed through her repertoire with confidence at a memorable performance at the Science Theatre in UNSW, Kensington, attended by an audience of friends and well wishers on the 9th of Sept 2006. 

Sruthi began her dance to the soulful sounds of the flute played by Devaki Vignesh, closely followed by the accomplished Sydney violinist Balaji Jagannadhan in one of his first such contributions to this art form. After a prayer to Lord Ganesha, set to Ragam Nattai, the melodious voice of Aruna Parthiban filled the auditorium with Ragam Hamsadhvani, as Sruthi presented her first item Natesa Kauthuvam 

To the clear and precise rendition of the nattuvangam by teacher and mentor Padma Balakumar, Sruthi paid respects to her guru, all artistes and the audience during the Alarippu. With tremendous confidence, she executed the intricate footwork in the Jathiswaram. Rhythm being the life of any dance performance, one must mention the excellent rhythmic support of Balasri Rasiah on the mridangam.  

Sruthi commenced the Varnam, the centre piece of an arangetram, with fine abhinaya and bhava. The Varnam is the piece wherein several mythological stories are choreographed into the dance. It is the item where a happy marriage between rhythm, rhyme and emotion is established. Bala Shankar's (MC of the evening) commentary was therefore welcome, helping to fill in the stories of Govardhana Giridhari, Kalinga Narthanam and Draupadi Vastrapaharanam.  

The viewers were also entertained by an interlude by the gifted accompanying artists. The singer Aruna Parthiban, violinist Balaji Jagannadhan whose particular portrayal of "Sakhiye" in Raga Anandha Bhairavi in the Varnam was noteworthy, flautist Devaki Vignesh's haunting melody; and expert nattvangum by guru Padma Balakumar, made for a fine music ensemble.  

The program then proceeded to the Padam. Padams are purely emotive expressions in dance and here is where some dancers establish their own style and creativity.  The writer asked a few experienced and knowledgeable dancers present in the audience to comment on Sruthi's performance. According to Gayathri, dancer/teacher from Sydney, "Sruthi has a very sensitive face and one can see her potential for brilliant abinaya. With her dedication and hard work, I am sure she will capitalise on this potential and work towards establishing the Sthayibhava in her rendering of Padams.  The second half of the program was interesting with excellent Padam choices."  
In the Padam Ananda Koothadinal in Ragam Rishabhapriya, Sruthi portrayed the mercurial Lord Nataraja, capturing the sculpturesque poses of Lord Shiva.  During a slokam depicting spiritual pathos and in the rendition of Panchashat Peeta Roopini, in Raga Karnataka Devagandhari, Sruthi brought the audience close to Goddess Devi Rajarajeshwari.  

Displaying the beauty, countenance and attraction of Lord Subramanya, in Poonkuyil Koovum, Sruthi won the hearts of the audience. In the ever popular Krishna Nee Begane Baro, set to Ragam Yaman Kalyani, with scope for the sanchari bhavas of the child Krishna, Sruthi transformed herself into the little one.  Finally, to the tune of Lalgudi Jayaraman’s Thillana set to Ragam Mohana Kalyan, Sruthi established her technical prowess in the complex footwork and statuesque poses. It was a perfect end to the evening.  

Despite her hamstring injury, Sruthi strung her audience happily along for nearly 2 ½ hrs. 'Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration' was truly demonstrated by Sruthi Ravi who has trained for 15 years and learnt the art form with dedication. "What never ceases to amaze me is despite being far away physically from their cultural roots, the youngsters brought up in Australia share and exhibit a deep understanding of the value of their heritage," observed dancer/teacher Hamsa Venkat.  

Sruthi Ravi, will no doubt, continue to impress Sydney audiences and many others, for years to come.