Mayuri Venkatesh presented her Bharatha Natyam arangetram at the Norwood High School on July 14, 2018. Mayuri is a student of renowned dancer and Guru Jayshree Bala Rajamani of the Bharatha Kalai School of Dance in Lexington, MA. Mayuri is a rising Sophomore at Westwood High School.
The concept of Rasanubhava- the experience of mood- is fundamental to the classical arts and Bharatha Natyam. That afternoon, Guru Jayshree and debutante Mayuri created a joyous experience that has stayed with me well beyond the event. For Mayuri’s debut- apart from being of thorough artistic caliber- was foremost an expression of love for the art.
What was it that drew us in so? In part, it was Guru Jayshree’s warm rapport with her student, her fellow artists and all of us. In equal part, it was also the camaraderie amongst the orchestra and their devoted support for Mayuri. And without question, it was Mayuri’s striking passion for dance that reigned supreme through the performance- rarely so palpable in a debut performance.
Mayuri delivered a recital that was much beyond the sum of the parts- capability in the elements of Bharatha Natyam or each delightful piece of the Margam carefully selected by Guru Jayshree. Mayuri is every bit a dancer-a very good dancer- as was evident in every minute of her performance.
The arangetram commenced with the traditional Thodaya Mangalam dedicated to Mahavishnu in His various forms. Mayuri deftly handled changes in gathi and nadai throughout the Thodaya Mangalam. This was followed by the Alarippu which was presented with perfect form.
Next was a Jathiswaram in beautiful Nattakuranji, a composition of Guru Jayshree’s late teacher Guru Sri. K. J. Govindarajan. The jathiswaram was pleasing in symmetry and proportion and rendered by Mayuri with grace. With what has become the modern day Bharatha Natyam repertoire, the jathiswaram is unfortunately, fast becoming a piece we see only during Arangetrams.
Mayuri then presented “Sarasijaksulu”, a traditional Shabdam composed by the Tanjore Quartet extolling the virtues of Lord Krishna. Mayuri’s Abhinaya was involved as she portrayed tales of Lord Krishna as the incessant trouble maker of Gokula.
Next followed a very unique Varnam in the ragam Desh, another composition of Guru Sri K.J. Govindarajan. The lyrics of the varnam were taken from the Valmiki Ramayana- believed to be the words of Lord Hanuman himself. Mayuri’s capability as a dancer was unmistakable as she navigated nritta and abhinaya passages- and many little surprises in the choreography- to create seamless whole. Guru Jayshree’s jathis were visually and rhythmically interesting without excess or needless length. The sancharis depicted unusual episodes from the Valmiki Ramayana such Hanuman’s first meeting with Rama in the guise of a performing monkey, Seetha as a young child lifting the box housing the very bow of Lord Shiva, and finally Hanuman’s love for Rama and Seetha as he carries them in his heart. Mayuri’s handlng of the sancharis demonstrated sound judgement and an understanding of the emotive aspects.
The second half of the recital commenced with “Sri Varalakshmi” especially choreographed by Guru Jayshree for Mayuri. Guru Jayshree effectively translated lyrical imagery into movement, studded with depictions of the luminous Goddess.
Next followed the Shiva Padam, Bo Shambo in which Guru Jayshree’s creativity as a choreographer- with occasional touches on the edges of the classical paradigm- was evident. Mayuri presented this piece with the right touch of power and with perfect lines and balances in the poses.
In the next piece, the classic Kshetrayya Padam “Mogudoochi”, Mayuri demonstrated her versatility as a dancer. Such a padam is not easy to present, let alone with the poignancy Mayuri conveyed.
The recital concluded with a Thillana in the ragam Varamu. This Thillana, a composition of flautist G. S. Rajan, is a choreography of the eminent danseuse Smt. Rama Vaidynathan from whom Mayuri learned this piece. Mayuri sailed through this interesting piece to bring the recital to a dramatic close.
The orchestra comprised of members from our treasure trove of local musicians- Dr. Maitreyi Sharma (vocal), Smt. Rasika Murali (violin), Smt Hema Balasubramanian (Flute), Sri Gowrishankar Chandrashekar (Mridangam), Chi. Hariharan Shanmugam (Kanjira) and Guru Smt Jayshree (Nattuvangam). The music was of very high order both in terms of the repertoire as well as impact. A very special part of the afternoon was Dr. Maitreyi providing vocal support for her daughter’s Arangetram. Quite apart from the special Mother-Daughter duo, Maitreyi’s music rivaled any we have heard on the Arangetram scene. Maitreyi’s renditions of Nattaikuranji, Desh and Varamu left many, me included, saying, “I didn’t know she could sing like that!”
A very special afternoon and a very delightful rasika experience that left me thinking, “Now that is what dance is all about”.