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Arangetram: Amrita Iyer

Janani Swamy
09/14/2017

Amrita Iyer presented her Bharatha Natyam arangetram at the St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury, MA on August 19, 2017.  Amrita, a rising senior at Newton North High School, has been a disciple of Guru Smt. Sangeetha Vijey of the Natyasudha Academy of Bharatanatyam, Boston since 2009.  Guru Sangeetha is one of the first generation students of the veteran Natya Acharyas, the Dhananjayans and has recitals from the world over to her credit.

Amrita delivered a recital that demonstrated her grounding in the pristine baani originating from the Kalakshetra school of dance and carrying the distinct stamp of the Dhananjayans. The recital was traditional Bharatha Natyam including both contemporary and vintage pieces and with all the elements in pleasing balance.

Following an invocation to Lord Ganesha, Amrita opened her recital with an invocation to Lord Shiva. This pure dance piece, a composition of the renowned dance percussionist, Nellai D. Kannan, combined elements of the Alarippu in varying patterns and speeds with a shlokam describing Lord Shiva as the One adorned with snakes and the Ganga in his hair as He rides atop Nandi. 

Next followed the traditional Ragamalika jathiswaram composed by the Tanjore Quartet and immortalized in the modern Bharatha Natyam repertoire by the Gurus of Kalakshetra. Amrita presented the many patterns and movements in this piece with elegance and tidy Anga Suddha.

Amrita then presented a keerthanam “Srinivasa Thiru Venkatam Udaiyaai” composed by Sri. Papanasam Sivan, extolling the virtues of Lord Venkateswara, God of the Thirupathi hills. Amrita effectively conveyed the bhakthi rasa in this piece as she described the Lord as the savior of the meek.  Draupadi Vastraharan was elaborated and conveyed by Amrita with insight and emotional impact. Amrita also depicted Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean) in a brief but impactful episode and captured the feeling of fervent prayer at “Dheena Charanyan”. The depiction of a bhajan assembly during the entry was charming.

Prior to the varnam, the audience was delighted with a musical interlude presented by the veteran musicians of the Orchestra.  Renowned flautist Sri. Ramani Thiagarajan (son of the eminent Vidwan Sri. N. Ramani), ably supported by our own Aadith Vijey on the violin, rendered the vintage composition of Saint Thyagaraja, “Evarani” in dedication to Amrita’s grandfather and Sangeetha Kala Acharya, the Late Sri. V. Subrahmaniam.  This was followed by a mridangam thani by senior percussionist Sri. Sudhaman Subramanian and Sri. Ramani Thiagarajan who set down his flute to have some fun with the kanjira.  The interactive percussion session erupted into a group thani of sorts with the audience almost on their feet!

“Gokula Bala”, composed by Natya Acharya Guru Smt. Rajee Narayan of Mumbai, and made a contemporary masterpiece in the hands of the Dhananajayans, was chosen for the varnam.   Amrita did full justice to the imaginative choreography of these great masters.  The varnam started with a satisfying tri kala jathi, neat in concept and in execution and the jathis that followed throughout the piece, all choreographed by Guru Sangeetha Vijey, were substantial but succinct. In the sanchari at “Gokula Bala Gopiyar Lola”, Amrita depicted an endearing child Krishna, stealing butter with his friends and Krishna’s relentless torment of the Gopis.  Multiple episodes from the mythology of Krishna, including the story of Sudhama, Gajendra Moksham and Geeta Upadesham, were portrayed with understanding and impact.   The successful presentation of such a varnam speaks to the effort and involvement on part of both Guru and Shishya.   Special mention must be made of the orchestra who enhanced the presentation with musical nuances and embellishments.

The second half of the recital commenced with the Ashtapadi, “Chandana Charchita” in which Amrita conveyed the sthayi bhava and longing of the heroine with maturity.

This was followed by a Nataraja Padam, “Idadhu Padam Thooki Aadum” which depicted the dance of the Lord at Chidambaram.  Witnessing His divine dance, bhaktha and sages rejoiced at the sight- the Lord adorned with the glittering crescent moon, tinkling bells and even snakes that swayed along with him. Amrita’s joyous rendition captured the mood of the piece.

The next piece was a composition of Jagadguru Shankaracharya Sri. Chandrasekhara Bharathi Mahaswamigal of Sringeri set to music by Amrita’s grandfather Sangeetha Kala Acharya Sri. V. Subrahmaniam and choreographed especially for Amrita by Guru Sangeetha.  This keerthanam, “Sharadamba Sharadindu Nibhaanana” extolled the virtues and beauty of Devi Sharadamba and showed that Bharatha Natyam can effectively convey deep concepts of theology. 

Amrita concluded her recital with a thillana in Hindolam, aptly dedicated to the dancing Lord Nataraja.

The orchestra was ably led by Guru Sangeetha on Nattuvangam, accompanied by senior musicians Sri. Sudev Warrier on vocal, Sri Sudhaman Subramanian on mridangam and Sri. Ramani Thiagarajan on flute. Their experience and understanding of the role of music in a Bharatha Natyam recital was evident in all the pieces but especially in the varnam.  Aadith Vijey, a student of Guru Smt. Tara Anand, provided superb support on the violin.

 It takes years of training and dedication on the part of Guru and Shishya to reach this stage of proficiency.  Amrita now enters into the next level of learning in this art form and has in Guru Sangeetha a teacher who will lead her through that journey. 



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