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Arangetram: Ilakya Senthilkumar

Niveda Baskaran

Ilakya Senthilkumar, a student of Sapna Krishnan of Lasya School of Dance, presented her Arangetram on July 10th, 2016 at Grafton High School, Grafton, MA. She was accompanied by Smt. Sapna Krishnan on nattuvangam, Sri Sudev Warrier on vocal, Sri Sudhaman Subramanian on mridangam, and Sri Thiagarajan Ramani on flute.

 Arangetram is a Tamil word meaning, “to ascend the stage” and it is often the most memorable event in a dancer’s life as it is the first margam, or Bharatanatyam repertoire, performed by the dancer on stage.

Ilakya’s special day proved not only memorable to her and her family but to all those seated in the audience, as she lit up the stage with her mesmerizing smile, energy and dedication to the art form. Ilakya began her recital with a beautiful invocatory piece, Gajamukha Nayaka, in praise of Lord Ganesha and to seek his blessings and ask him to remove all miseries. This was followed by a kautuvam on none other than the Lord of Dance himself, Shiva, who takes abode in the mountains of Kailasam. In this piece, she depicted the half-man, half-woman form of Shiva, known as Ardhanareeshwara, and praised the thandavam, or dance, of Lord Shiva. Ilakya’s crisp mudras and movements added power to the piece while her infectious smile reeled the audience into the dance. Moving from father to son, Ilakya’s next piece, Kaliyuga Varadhan, a composition of Sri Periasaamy thooran, was in praise of Lord Muruga. Sri Sudev Warrier’s devout rendition of this piece complemented the devotion and sincerity with which Ilakya presented the story. She described Lord Muruga as the one who protected the Devas by fighting the demon Surapadma with his vel, a trident given to him by his mother, Parvathi.

The Varnam, the central and most intricate piece of a Bharatanatyam margam, followed next. Ilakya combined pure dance, nritta, and emotive expressions, nritya, into an elaborate piece comprising of several mythological stories centered around Lord Krishna. In Shree Krishna Paramatma, Ilakya became the angry Kamsa, the distraught mother in Devaki, the desperate father in Vasudeva, and ultimately the Paramatma himself, Lord Krishna, effortlessly as the piece flowed from one story to the next. It was hard not to become involved in the stories as an audience member watching Ilakya  transform between Kaaliya and Krishna in the infamous battle that is known as Kaaliya marthanam. Her commendable portrayal of each and every character and her firm grasp of the intricate, complex jathis, along with the beautiful choreography by Guru Smt Sapna Krishnan made the piece a pleasure to watch.

After a brief intermission, the recital continued with several eye-catching pieces, beginning with a keerthanam on Goddess Durga, Om Kara Karini. The genius interplay of the Mahishasura Mardini Stothram Aigiri Nandini with the actual piece filled the room with goose bumps as Ilakya portrayed the story in which Goddess Durga fights and kills the demon Mahishasura, thus earning her the title “Mahishasura Mardhini.” The Lord of Dance was once again portrayed in the scintillating piece Shankara Srigiri, a composition of Maharaja Swathi Tirunal. The eye-catching choreography brought out the majesty that is Lord Shiva, or Shankara, who is adorned with ashes, and dances in the Chitra Sabha as Bringhi, Bramha, and Vishnu wield cymbals and drums.

The penultimate piece of the evening was an entertaining kavadi chindu, Maadu Meikkum Kanne, in which Ilakya captured the audience with her brilliant portrayal of the conversation between Yashoda and a young Krishna. The involved audience members worried along with Yashoda as she tries to warn her son of the many dangers that await him as he steps out the door and laughed as Krishna retorts confidently to each and every concern of his mother. This enchanting performance concluded with a Thillana in Ragam Dhanashree, another composition of Maharaja Swathi Tirunal. The joyous and fast paced rhythmic portions of this piece were accompanied by small verses in praise of Lord Padmanabha. The mangalam that followed allowed Ilakya to express her gratitude towards God, her Guru, the orchestra and the audience. 

Her family’s pride in her accomplishment became apparent during the speeches. Her grandparents from both sides of the family were able to fly in from India to see the wonderful program she put on. Their speeches were touching to hear and demonstrated how much she has grown as both a dancer and person.

Guru Smt Sapna Krishnan, who provided the nattuvangam as well as the powerful recitations of the jathis, led the orchestra of the evening. Her unique choreography Sri Sudev Warrier, the tremendously talented vocalist and a disciple of the renowned Dr. Sri. M. Balamuralikrishna mesmerized the audience throughout the course of the night with his soul-stirring renditions of each song. Sri Sudhaman Subramanian, was a crowd favorite as he impressed the audience with his command over the mridangam. Last but not least, Sri Thiyagarajan Ramani enchanted the audience with his melodious and touching flute music.

As for the star of the evening, Ilakya graduated from Shrewsbury High School this May and will be attending Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University to pursue a career as a physician’s assistant. She hopes to keep dance very much a part of her life, even through college.

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