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Bharatanatyam Arangetram: Ritu Somayaji

Meenu Ramakrishnan
07/31/2017

Arangetram, a Tamil word, literally means ‘to ascend the stage’, and marks the transition of becoming a dancer from a student. On July 23, 2017, the dedication and perseverance that Ritu had put into this event was apparent to everybody in the audience. Ritu Somayaji, a junior at Westborough High School, has been learning Bharatanatyam since the age of 6, under the tutelage of Smt. Hemalatha Vaidyanathan. For the past three years, she has been under the guidance of Smt. Jothi Raghavan, the founder of the Nrityanjali School of Dance. Ritu displayed her remarkable aptitudes as a dancer with her crisp footwork, elegant grace, and beautiful smile which was accompanied by lovely music. The orchestra for the performance was lead by the guru, Smt. Jothi Raghavan on Nattuvangam, the flawless Sri Prasanna Venkatesh as the vocalist, the impeccable Smt. Durga Krishnan on Veena, and the eminent Sri H.S Venugopal on his melodious flute. Hari Shanmugham and Sri Gaurish Chandrashekhar, a vital part of the orchestra, both played the mridangam remarkably.

The debut started with an offering of flowers followed by a prayer, Shri Vignarajambhaje, which asks Lord Ganesha to remove any obstacles. The prayer in ragam Gambeera Naattai, exhibited the dancer’s ability to beautifully blend the Nritta- dance, and Nritya-expressions, providing an enthralling start to the debut. In the next piece, the dancer showed off the elegance of her eye movements, and her crisp footwork in her Kanda Chapu Allaripu. The Jhathiswaram, a pure Nritta piece, showcased the graceful movements of a peacock, and Ritu displayed her ability to complete intricate footwork with ease.

After a brief musical interlude, Ritu returned with great energy, in a cream and lavender get-up, to perform her varnam, which is the centerpiece of an arangetram. It incorporated intricate footwork, graceful body movements and abhinaya. This particular varnam, a composition of Papanasam Sivan in Ragam Nattakuranji set to Adi thalam, was in praise of Lord Nataraja, the dancer playing the role of a devotee desperate for a glimpse of Lord Nataraja’s dancing feet. Ritu beautifully executed the abhinaya of the devotee who pleads “Don’t you know I am your captive? Please don’t delay any further and come to me.” Each swaram demanded much from the dancer, but Ritu seemed to perform each swaram with vigor, and with each subsequent verse, displaying her capabilities in performing powerful thi-thi-thais’ and expansive arm movements.

After a brief intermission, Ritu came back in a beautiful deep purple, and magenta costume, performing the second half of her debut with to present a trio of animated pieces. The first, “Chandra Chooda” in Ragamalika Ragam set to Adi thalam, was brightened by Ritu’s well executed, strong Shiva Poses, and the telling’s of the fabulous deeds of Lord Shiva. The second, a composition of Agathiyar in Ragamalika Ragam set to Adi thalam, “Sri Chakra Raja Simhasaneshwari” praised Sri Raja Rajeshwari, with elegant poses and evocative expressions. It fit well with Ritu’s natural elegance and her attractive smile. Third, “Villinai Otha Puruvam Valaithanai” by the renowned poet Mahakavi Bharathiyar, praised Lord Muruga and tells the story of him wooing tribal princess Valli. An energetic and comedic piece in which Muruga takes the form of an old man and asks Valli to marry him. Ritu displays both characters with strong expressions, charming the audience with Valli’s inceptive refusal of Muruga, and her initial disgust in marrying an old man when faced with a ‘wild elephant’.

The concluding thillana, in ragam Mand set to Adi thalam, started with Ritu’s blinding smile and her enthusiasm lighting up the stage. The thillana consisted of lithe body movements, poses and brisk footwork. Ritu executed the sophisticated adavues with ease, all while keeping a charming smile on her face. A well-deserved and passionate standing ovation greeted Ritu following her manglam, a thank you to God, the Guru, the musicians, and the audience.

Having known Ritu for the past three years, I have been fortunate enough to know someone whose commitment and enthusiasm shows through every dance, and every conversation one has with her. Not only is she a remarkable friend, her arangetram was spectacular and every person in the audience could appreciate the way she can engage everybody through her dance. Her diligence and dedication shone through the entire arangetram, and I know that she has the positive attitude, sincerity and talent to achieve all her dreams.



 



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