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Arangetram: Gauri Narayan

S. Ramamoorthy

A Cool Dance Bonanza On A Hot Summer Evening

No matter what the mercury level is, New England is always buzzing with cultural activities, summer is quite the special time for arangetrams (solo debut). I was blessed to take part in one such arangetram recently. Kumari Gauri Narayan, disciple of Smt Jeyanthi Ghatraju at the Natyanjali School of dance presented her arangetram on Saturday, July 30, 2016 at the Nashua High School auditorium in Nashua, NH.  For Gauri, it was a happy confluence of high school graduation and this cultural recognition. In addition, she graduated from the Certificate in Performing Arts curriculum offered by the Alagappa Performing Artists Academy, Alagappa University, Karaikudi India.

Gauri started learning Bharatanatyam under Guru Jeyanthi Ghatraju at Natyanjali for the last 7 years. She evinced keen interest making steady progress through the years. Guru Jeyanthi offered her every opportunity to gain performing experience through the various programs of her dance school.  
The arangetram was formatted by Guru Jeyanthi strictly adhering to the 'Margam' format set by the illustrious Thanjavur quartet in letter and spirit. Gauri commenced her program with an invocation 'solkattu' in traditional Natta raga to submit herself at the feet of The Lord of Dance , her Guru, the musicians  and the audience seeking their blessings for her successful artistic voyage.

She followed that with Shivashtakam, a composition by Saint Adi Shankara in Mohana ragam set to khanda ekha thalam.  In this octet prayer the dancer longed for immense strength in her spiritual journey.  The spiritual vibrations in conjunction with Gauri's meditative movements enlisted a solemn atmosphere.

Next Gauri presented an Alarippu in misra nadai, with the resounding chant of Thiruppugazh in the background. Kalyani ragam added quite the luster to the piece and was mesmerizing! The next item was an elegant jathiswaram in ragam Bahudhari.  A great sense of harmony and joy was evoked in this item from the sheer synergy among the musicians that drew lusty cheers from the knowledgeable audience. In the brief interlude that followed next, Krishnaprasad on the flute and Pramath on the rhythm pad along with Sri N. G. Ravi on mridangam enthralled the audience with a lilting “baro Krishnaiyya!”

The piece de resistance in a Bharatanatyam recital is the Varnam, and sure enough, expectations were pretty high! Engum niraindha param porule, a composition by Madurai N.Krishnan in pleasing Panthukavarali ragam encompassed episodes from Dashavatharam - the incarnations of Vamana, Parshurama  besides 'Thiruppathy Chalo' narration.  Gauri went through all aspects of the number quite amicably, - whether pure dance or expressions interwoven with story-telling or delineation by thattu mettu/sarpa nadai or aruthi. More so at the end of each narration her return to Vishwaroopa posture to signify Lord Vishnu was enthralling.  Every such time the audience went into raptures in great exhilaration.
Having dwelt the central piece item in great effable delight, Gauri moved on to dance for lighter keerthanams after a brief intermission. First in this category was the popular sthuthi  'Sri Chakra Raja Simhaneshwari - a composition by Saint Agasthya in ragamalika praising the Goddess Lalitha.  Gauri personified the grace and compassion of the deity in her deft gestures. Next she presented “pudumei penn”, on the concept of new-age woman as visualized by the revolutionary Tamil poet Subramanya Bharathi in ragamalika set in talamalika. The last padham was an abhang by Saint Ramadas in Kalavathy ragam, “Arambhi vandhin Ayodhyecha Raja!”.  It was a solemn song describing Lord Rama. Gauri brought out the essence of the poetic verses in her graceful dance movements.

The climax number for the day's  arangetram was a thrilling Thillana in the ragam Maand. It is a very popular composition by the legendary Lalgudi Sri Jayaraman. in praise of goddess Kanchi Kamakshi.  In this piece rich in jathis set in fast pace, combined with rhythmic twists, Gauri  displayed fineness with perfect timing thus  mesmerizing the  audience. Having executed an excellent arangetram in her dramatic debut on stage, a gleaming Gauri concluded the program with the mangalam, Ranganathane.

The highlight of the program was the excellent musical support by the elite musicians. Guru Jeyanthi Ghatraju's assertive  nattuvangam, sweetly toasted  melodious vocal music by Smt. Neela Ramanuja, unobtrusive and able support from Shri N.G. Ravi on the mridangam, mellifluous venugana support from flautist Shri Krishna Prasad and, last but not the least, enthralling support from Sri  Pramath Kiran on the rhythm pad formed a pancha vyukam to make the program most memorable. The brilliant orchestra was applauded for a long time by the cherished audience! Guru Jeyanthi Ghatraju’s compering giving relevant information on the pieces were quite to the point and made the items quite palatable to those in the audience who were unfamiliar with the concepts. Kudos to the guru, musicians and the young debutante!!

(Photo Credits - MRK Visuals )

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