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Arangetram: Neha Vijay

Parveen Minocha

Everytime I witness an Arangetram, it is an exhilarating experience as I go down the memory lane, remembering my own daughter’s journey. I reminisce on the ‘Guru-Shishya’ commitment and dedication; what our young girls can achieve with their perseverance. Neha Vijay took the stage on September 9th at Scottish Museum Auditorium for her Bharatnatyam & Kuchipudi Arangetram and left the audience in awe with an exuberant performance.

A student of Smt. Neena Gulati, one of the finest dance teachers and founder of the first classical dance school in the community ‘Triveni School of Dance’, Neha has been learning Bharatnatyam & Kuchipudi for past 9 years. ‘Arangetram’ literary means ‘ascending the stage’. It is an important milestone in the life of the dance student. Needless to say, Neha worked tirelessly for this full length solo performance. The event started with the traditional pooja of Lord Nataraja, where Neha sought blessings from the Lord and the Guru to adorn the ‘salangai’ or bells on her feet to perform the dance. Nitin, Neha’s young brother sang the invocation piece, ‘Mamavathu Sri Saraswathi’ in raga Hindolam. It set the mood for the next few hours, which was only going to be one memorable experience.

With much grace and poise, Neha entered the stage and performed ‘Pushpanjali’, a beautiful invocation Bharatnatyam piece as an offering to Lord Ganesha, the remover of all obstacles. She also bowed to Lord Nataraja and went around to seek blessings from the Gurus as part of the accompanying orchestra, her own Guru, Smt. Neena ji and the sabha’ or the audience. Neena ji explained each piece and its significance in the Bharatnatyam repertoire. Neha then built up the momentum with ‘Jathiswaram’, which is a pure dance piece bringing together the music, rhythm and movements. By this time, the audience had their eyes glued on Neha, didn’t want to miss on any movement.

Looking absolutely gorgeous, an incarnation of Dev herself, Neha first illustrated and then performed the ‘Shakti Tandavam’. The intense piece brought the Shakti to life; Neha did justice in depicting the balance of the five elements of water, air, fire, space and earth.

Next was the most complex piece and the centerpiece of Bharatnatyam performance, Varnam. Neha’s Varnam was dedicated to Lord Murugha. This piece showed her full command over all aspects of this dance style, from abhinaya (acting) to nritya (pure dance). The orchestra made for the perfect accompaniment to Neena ji’s Nattuvangam. On the Mridangam was Shri Gaurishankar Chadrashekhar, Violin by Shri Surya Sundararajan, Flute by Smt. Hema Balasubramanian. Vocals by Smt. Bhuvana Ganesh was absolutely soulful. Young Hariharan Shanmugam, a disciple of Gaurishankar ji also played Mridangam for one of the pieces.

After a short break, Neha transitioned to Kuchipudi, a traditional dance form from the state of Andhra Pradesh. She performed the Shiva Navrasa, depicting the nine (Nava) human emotions (rasa) of Sringara (Love), Veera (Valor), Karuna (Compassion), Adbhuta (Surprise), Hasya (Laughter), Bhayanaka (Fear), Bibhatsa (Disgust) , Roudra (Anger), and Shanti (Peace). Neha did a phenomenal job highlighting each flavor of the human emotion. The stage was artistically setup, the use of lighting further enhanced the beauty of this piece.

Bhama Kalapam was the story of Satyabhama, the fiery princess and partner of Lord Krishna. Neena ji explained the episode of the Parijata flowers in which Satyabhama is jealous of Rukmini, Kirshna’s wife. Neha brought the character of Satyabhama to life, as the audience was amused at her being to so natural in displaying the arrogance of Satyabhama. Neha then performed the Tillana by late Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna. Neha’s mastery over both dance forms, or rather her maturing as an artist was hitting the climax as she performed ‘Kaliya Narthanam’. She was simply spectacular as she depicted the story of Kaliya, the serpent which is tackled by young Krishna dancing over his head. Neha displayed exquisite virtuosity as she ended the piece by dancing on the rim of a brass plate.

The audience had no idea of the time, as Neha was ready with the Mangalam, the closing piece. She thanked Lord Nataraja, her Guru, the accompanying orchestra and the audience, concluding  amongst the thunderous applause and standing ovation from the crowd.

A sophomore at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School, bright and talented Neha is also compassionate and kind. She volunteers for Ekal Vidyalaya, a non-profit bringing education to children in rural India. Neha supported Ekal by asking for donations for this cause in lieu of any gifts for herself. Ekal New England Secretary, Pushpa Baskaran spoke about Neha’s achievements, and her contribution to Ekal as a Youth Leader. Neha raised four Ekal schools from her Arangetram. Thanks to all families who supported Neha’s campaign.

Arangetram involves hard work not only from the Shishya and the Guru, but almost the entire family is a part of it. With help from friends, Neha’s parents Sudha and Vijay, made sure that everything was in place, from the sparkling decorations, stage setup, food, felicitations and the whole nine yards. Neha’s grandfather came all the way from India specially for this event. And he couldn’t be more proud of Neha!

Congratulations Neha Vijay on a magnificent Arangetram. You have the blessings of several Ekal children, we wish you the very best on the road ahead. May Lord Nataraja guide your way.

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