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Arangetram: Balaji Sisters Captivate Audience At Joint Arangetram

By Anu Chitrapu

"Today is not just merely showcasing what bharathanatyam teaches us dancers as individuals -- hard work, dedication, sweat, everything -- it also is showcasing sisterly love and family bonds" says guru Smt. Jayshree Bala Rajamani of the Bharathakalai School of Dance about two of her newly post-arangetram students, Aishwarya Balaji and Kavya Balaji.

Kavya and Aishwarya started their dance journey together 11 years ago, but they ascended to the stage after taking two very different paths. Aishwarya, a consultant at PwC, took a five year hiatus from Bharathanatyam and approached her Guru during the summer of 2014 hoping to restart her training. Smt. Jayshree says during her speech, "I was skeptical of her commitment, but after she said 'I told my company to relocate me to Boston and if it means that I have to quit my job, I will' that told me that she really wanted to do this. This girl demonstrated sheer dedication and hardwork and in 10 months she learned an entire margam." For Kavya, as a junior at Acton Boxborough, was ready to go with all her pieces choreographed for her solo arangetram last summer. "This arangetram was supposed to be Kavya's day in the spotlight, and she showed generosity and flexibility by allowing her sister join her. These two sisters have taught that bharathanatyam can teach something more. This is one trait that I have never seen in the 27 plus years of teaching, where sisters can come together like this," states Guru Jayshree. This arangetram has also been a testament to how dedicated Guru Smt. Jayshree Bala Rajamani is as a teacher in helping her students achieve their dreams.

Anu Chitrapu, a Bharathakalai School of Dance mom and an avid dance enthusiast describes the Balaji sisters' arangetram below.

Aishwarya and Kavya Balaji presented their arangetram, the ultimate milestone of their bharathanatyam training, on Sunday, Jul 19th at the Littleton High School.

This arangetram was unique in that there were two dancers on stage as opposed to just one. Guru Jayshree Rajamani choreographed the pieces very creatively, giving each dancer her own moment in the spotlight, but also leveraging the fact that there were two dancers who could show two different interpretations of the same song.

Live accompaniment was provided by Smt. Geetha Murali (vocal), Smt. Hema Balasubramanian (flute), Shri Gaurishankar Chandrashekar (percussion) and Kumari Rasika Murali (violin). Boston is lucky to have access to professional musicians of this caliber.  A sweet touch was added to the accompaniment by having Mayari Rajamani, daughter of Guru Jayshree Rajamani, join Smt. Geetha Murali in the opening prayer. Her brother Surya Rajamani also participated by playing the drums for one of the pieces.

As with any traditional bharathanatyam arangetram, the evening started with a “kautvam”, which was followed by an “alarippu”, “jatiswaram” and “shabdam”.  The main piece of the arangetram, the “varnam” which tests the stamina of the dancer was, in my opinion, the best piece of the entire presentation. The sisters presented the Ramayana taking the audience through the entire story starting from when Rama was a young lad,  to his winning Sita, going on exile, rescuing Sita when she was abducted to the grand finale when he is crowned King. The story came alive with the sisters using every aspect of their training, be it expressions or technical expertise, to engage the audience.  The chorography for this piece was excellent and made it easy even for people not very familiar with the dance form, to follow along. The success of this piece was evident in the standing ovation the dancers, musicians and the guru received at the end of the piece.

The second half of the arangetram started with a song “Shambho Natanam” dedicated to the lord of dance. This piece was choreographed by Smt. Rama Vaidyanathan, a dancer of acclaim from India.  This dance had several still beautiful poses - Rama’s signature style!

This was followed by “Kuzhal Oodhi” where Aishwarya performed solo and then “Murali Shyam” where the Kavya performed solo. The two songs were both about Krishna and his flute but each dancer showed completely different emotions. In one, the nayika falls in love with the flute and the flute player while in the other the nayika is jealous of the flute that never leaves Krishna’s lips and gets annoyed at Krishna for constantly playing music. Kudos to Aishwarya and Kavya for the very natural way in which they expressed the emotions in this piece. Selecting these two songs for an arangetram where two girls were performing was a very creative choice!

The next piece was the fast thillana which was followed by the mangalam. For Aishwarya and Kavya the mangalam was a very special piece as it was a song dedicated to their family deity “Vasavi”.  Guru Jayshree choregraphed this piece as a gift to the girls just for them! This tradition that she maintains is an everlasting and priceless gift that every student cherishes for life. The mangalam was an emotional finale to months of training and practice. This was evident as the girls took their final bow alternating between smiles and tears!

The girls picked Ekal Vidyalaya as the organization they wanted to support through the arangetram, bringing joy not just to their guru, their parents and the audience but to children in India. Congratulations to the guru, the dancers and the parents!

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