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Ananya Venkatesan Shines In Debut Performance

By Sripriya Natarajan Moorthy
10/03/2017

 Ananya Venkatesan’s passion for dance is well-known in the New England community.  In addition to being an avid participant in competitions, cultural performances and Vision-Aid productions, she also choreographs and teaches Bollywood and folk dances to younger children.  So, when Ananya, a disciple of Smt. Neha Parikh Sharma, presented her Bharatha Natyam arangetram on August 26, 2017 at Keefe Tech, expectations were high for the energy and enthusiasm she would bring to her arangetram.  In fact, Ananya not only brought her beaming smile and endless store of energy to the program, she also brought a delicate grace in both movement and expression, displaying a comprehensive grasp of the art of Bharatha Natyam and delighting her audience from start to finish.

 The program opened with welcomes from Ananya’s parents and the well-spoken MCs, Smt. Maheswari Vasan and Bharatha Natyam teacher Smt. Vyju Prasad, and a loving good luck wish from Ananya’s little brother.  There was an auspicious double homage to the remover of obstacles, Lord Ganesha.  First was the invocation “Sri Ganesha Charanam” sung melodiously by Ananya's sister Adithi, followed by the orchestra's rousing rendition of “Vinayakane Vinai Theerpanvane” in ragam Keeravani.  Ananya entered to applause to start her performance with a ragamalika pushpanjali (offering of flowers) composed by Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman and set to Adi thalam.  This piece, alternating sharp dance movements with verses in praise of Ganesha and the three goddesses Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi, was a crisp showcase of Ananya's skills in movement and expression.  Ananya next presented one of her personal favorites, Sri Madurai R. Muralidharan's “Sadaksharam” on Lord Murugan, in ragam Shanmughapriya and set to Adi thalam.  Ananya radiated joy and energy with this vibrant piece, captivating us with her leaps and large, expressive eyes.

 Ananya's next piece, “Thumak Chalath Ramachandra,” a Tulsidas bhajan in ragam Mishra Kamas set to Tisra eka talam, was a lovely surprise.  Ananya, whose showed her enthusiasm through jumps, speedy footwork and powerful expressions, now transformed into the essence of gentle affection, her face overflowing with love as she depicted playing with baby Lord Rama.  Her realistic and touching expressions channeled her characteristic intensity as a dancer in a completely different way.  Some of Ananya’s little students, who between dance pieces came up to speak so fondly of their young Bollywood choreographer, lent some insight into what might have inspired Ananya’s depth of expression in this piece.

 

The beautiful musical interludes after this bhajan and also in the second half of the program underscored the talent of the impressive live orchestra.  Vocalist Sri Gomathi Nayagam Ratnam, mridangist Sri Sakthivel Muruganantham, violinist Sri N. Sigamani and flautist Sri Sankarapillai Sunilkumar performed not only with technical precision of melody and rhythm, but also with vibrant emotion.

 

After the first interlude, Ananya showcased her command over both the expressive and rhythmic aspects of Bharatha Natyam in her varnam.  This composition of Sri Dhandayudhapani Pillai in ragam Karaharapriya set to Aadhi talam, conveys the perspective of a Virahotkanthitha Nayika, a heroine distressed by separation from her beloved, in this case, none other than Lord Shiva.  During the jathis and Shiva poses, Ananya’s footwork was precise and her thalam sense strong.  Smt. Neha's choreography gave her student the chance to show her skill in executing both masculine (tandava) and feminine (lasya) movements.  Another highlight of the varnam was Ananya’s talent for humor in scenes such as the nayaki mimicking her friend's dilly dallying instead of rushing on her way to deliver a message to Shiva.

 

Following an intermission, was a touching slide show of photos of Ananya with her friends an family through the years and Ananya introduced a video encouraging the audience to support the “Rally for Rivers” (http://isha.sadhguru.org/rally-for-rivers/) to restore threatened natural water resources in India.  She then commenced the second half of her program with “Bho Shambho,” Swami Dayananda’s well-known compostion in ragam Revathi, set to Adi thalam.  This piece with its powerful depiction of Shiva and His cosmic dance was another opportunity for Ananya's high energy and vigor to shine.  She then performed Sri Papanasam Sivam’s “Devi Neeye Thunai”, set in ragam Keeravani to Adi thalam. In this piece, Ananya skillfully portrayed Goddess Meenakshi as both fearless warrior and a shy princess who has fallen in love.

 

In her third padham, Sri Oothukadu Venkata Subhaiyar’s “Vishamakara Kannan” in ragam Chenchurutti set to Tisra Eka thalam, Ananya showed us again her talent for natural expressiveness and in depicting humor. Her eyes brimmed with delight and mischief acting as Krishna knocking down pots and teasing gopis, and the audience laughed with delight too.  Ananya concluded her performance with a demanding thillana, Sri Madurai Krishnan’s composition in ragam Revathi, set to Adi thalam, in praise of Godess Bhuvaneshwari, completing each motion fully and with unflagging energy.  As she did her namaskaram to the lilting melody of the traditional mangalam “Ramachandraya” by Sri Bhadrachala Ramadas, the audience were on their feet giving a standing ovation for a performance into which Ananya had clearly poured her heart and soul.

 

During the many lovely speeches in praise of Ananya and in her own touching tribute to her guru, family and friends, Ananya's passion and sincerity for this art form was a common theme.  Guru Smt. Neha especially praised Ananya's receptive attitude towards critique, accepting each correction with an open mind and absorbing them to improve as a dancer.  The fruits of her dedication were on full display that evening.  Ananya trained for this performance through a busy junior year high school, while pursuing music, athletics and community service projects in addition to myriad dance activities.  She might be the only dancer who participated in the intense summer rehearsals for a Vision-Aid production of Sri Madurai R. Muralidharan’s dance dramas while preparing for her debut solo performance.  Many students pursue dance with dedication and talent, but there are a few who live and breathe dance and who pursue this art far beyond childhood and teenage years.  Ananya will surely continuing to train, to teach and to expand her dance horizons lifelong.  My wish and hope for her is that this lovely debut marks 



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