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Arangetram: Anagha Kumar

Sripriya Natarajan Moorthy

Anagha Kumar Dazzles Arangetram Audience with Versatile Expressions and Smiles
Anagha Kumar’s natural charm and dedication shined through during her arangetram (Bharatha Natyam solo debut performance) on July 9, 2016 at Medway High School, Medway, MA.  A disciple of Smt. Meena Subramanyam, Anagha brought joy, emotion and confidence to a performance that delighted an appreciative audience.

After a gracious welcome from guru Smt. Meena Subramanyam, director of Natya Vidyalaya, and a stirring rendition of the invocation “Maha Ganapathim” by the orchestra, Anagha entered the stage brimming with confidence and beaming a wide smile for her Pushpanjali.  This piece, in ragam Arabhi and set to Adi Thalam, was a composition of Dr. Balamurali Krishna, and included a verse asking Lord Ganesha to remove all obstacles.  Anagha immediately followed with an alarippu in Tisra nadai and the Murugan Kauthuvam, in ragam Shanmughapriya set to Adi thalam.  She performed the three items continuously, maintaining her energy throughout and marking her performance with expressive and varied smiles, precise and large eye movements, and crisp and graceful body movements, leaps and leg swings.  Guru Smt. Subramanyam’s pushpanjali choreography included all five fundamental rhythm patterns (pancha nadai) which she highlighted with simultaneous spoken sollukattu.  Anagha’s eyes and body carriage beautifully illustrated the poetry of the kauthuvam, from Muruga’s elegant peacock mount to the majestic manner in which he bears his spear.

Anagha next performed her jathiswaram, a classic composition of the Tanjore quartet in ragam Kalyani set to Rupaka thalam, which her guru introduced as a pure dance (nritta) piece without any abhinaya or miming component.  Anagha showed her biggest strength as a dancer as her face modulated through different kinds of smiles, bringing a different attitude to different steps—although there were no lyrics to interpret, her pure dance was fetchingly expressive and was delightful to watch from start to finish.  She performed the entire piece with energy and maintained her thalam well even during the fastest segments.  The last verse was particularly graceful as she alternated seamlessly between slow and fast choreography.

A brief musical interlude provided a chance to showcase the talented live orchestra from India.  Vocalist Sri Kumar Das interpreted the songs with beauty and emotion.  Percussionist Sri Venkata Subramanya Krishnamoorthy provided an energetic and powerful backbone with his mridangam.  Flautist G.K. Pathanjali’s exceptional talent was especially evident with his masterful interpretation of the beautiful Shanmughapriya ragam before the kauthuvam and a beautiful rendition of the “Kuzhai Ondrum Illai” during the musical interlude.  Violinist N.N. Ganeshkumar also delightfully brought out the beauty of the underlying ragam for each song.

Anagha’s varnam, in Ragam Simhendra Madhyamam set to Adi Thalam, was a thematic composition commissioned by her guru’s sister, the dancer and choreographer Smt. Roja Kannan, in honor of Smt. Roja’s and Smt. Meena’s own guru, the renowned Padmashri Adayar K. Lakshmanan.  Each sanchari in the varnam illustrated a different story highlighting the guru-sishya (teacher-student) relationship.  In the first story, Anagha described how Lord Muruga taught his own father, Lord Shiva, the meaning of the sacred sound “Om”.  In the second story, Anagha acted out the story of Ekalavya, the boy who watches archery master Drona from afar and keeping his image in his heart, becomes an even better archer than Arjuna, the Pandava prince and hero.  When Drona discovers Ekalavya and hears his story, he demands Ekalavya’s own thumb as guru dakshina (gift to teacher) in order to protect Arjuna’s status as the best archer.  Ekalavya cheerfully, gratefully obeys without hesitation, even if it means he can no longer be an archer.  Finally, Anagha presented the Bhagawad Gita scene where Lord Krishna explains the nature of duty and God to Arjuna, who is conflicted about fighting his own cousins in battle.  The maturity of Anagha’s expressions as each of these varied characters was exceptional for her age and level of experience.  She changed from one character to another smoothly, each time truly becoming the person she was portraying.  Anagha conveyed shock, sadness, surprise, pride, piety, anger, courage and compassion so convincingly that the audience felt each of these emotions in their seats.  The choreographic details were thoughtful and added much depth to the piece, such as showing the different ways in which the students’ arrows would misfire while the Pandavas were learning archery from Drona or portraying Ekalavya’s shyness in the presence of his guru.  During the jathis and swarams that interspersed the verses, Anagha danced with lithe bends and excellent control of her eye movements.  The orchestra rendered the varnam beautifully with guru Smt. Meena performing crisp, modulated nattuvangam and the musicians soulfully rendering an extremely touching song; the music for the Gita Upadesham scene was especially beautiful.

After a brief intermission, Anagha returned to the stage with a trio of expressive padhams.  The first, Aananda Natanam Aaduvar in Ragam Poorvikalyani and Roopaka thalam, celebrated Lord Shiva dancing on the stage of Thillai.  Anagha showcased her sense of balance with a series of majestic poses.  She then portrayed a series of stories from the Ramayana in the Tulsidas bhajan “Sri Ramachandraya Bhaja Mana” in Ragam Yaman Kalyani set to Misra Chapu thalam; her expression of bhakthi (devotion) was particularly beautiful in this piece.  In Maharaja Swati Tirunal’s “Gopalika Pahinam”, in Ragam Bhoopalam set to Misra Chapu thalam, Anagha described Lord Krishna as having the full complement of good qualities from knowledge to talent to radiance.  Notably, when she showed mother Yashoda seeing the entire world in her young son Krishna’s mouth, Anagha acted out all that Yashoda could actually see, from the elements of land, water and fire, to living creatures such as birds, to the cosmic stars and moon.  She concluded her program with the same joy, enthusiasm and grace that marked her entire program, performing a thillaana in ragam Brindavana Saranga set to Adi thalam in praise of Lord Krishna and a devout mangalam, “Charanam Ayappa,” in which her genuine gratitude shined through.  The appreciative audience expressed their delight in her performance with a standing ovation.

Anagha’s preparation and performance earned her the sincere and high praise of her guru, Smt. Meena, who described her as “committed,” “prepared,” striving to “constantly improve herself,” filled with “humility” and as a “cooperative, happy young person” who “made my life easy.”  Anagha is certainly a role model for her younger sister Ananya who proclaimed during her congratulatory speech, “I want to be like [my sister] when I grow up.”  Anagha’s dedication and talent were clear on stage and her strength of character was clear at the podium when she gave a speech that was humble and filled with gratitude to her guru, her parents Jaya and Bijay Kumar, and the family and friends who provided advice and support for this arangetram and beyond.  With her positive attitude, sincere commitment and talent, Anagha has made her guru and family very proud and she has all that she needs to continue to excel in her pursuit of dance far into the future.  In her guru’s own words, “Now begins her journey.”

(Smt. Sripriya Natarajan Moorthy is director of Abhinaya Natya Sala of Framingham, MA.

Photo Credits: Jeyakumar Sathyamoorthy and Ganesh Ramachandran. )

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