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Arangetram: Ritika Gurjar And Sanjana Sankar

Prnay Chopra

Maturity Displayed Through Dance by Ritika Gurjar and Sanjana Sankar

On August 11, 2019, friends, family, and fellow classmates gathered to witness the arangetram of Ritika Gurjar and Sanjana Sankar, disciples of Smt. Neena Gulati of the Triveni School of Dance. Ritika and Sanjana have been learning from Neena aunty together since they were 5 and 7 years old, making the event a culmination of many years of hard work and camaraderie. The auspicious event, held at North Andover High School, MA was graced by guests locally, from India, Australia, Arizona, and California. Family also attended virtually through the live telecast and extended their blessings to the girls.

The program began with Pada Vande, a traditional invocation to Lord Ganesha in Odissi. Many members of the audience remarked how synchronized the girls were with each other, which is a testament to their hard work and strong bond they share through dance. This was followed by the pure dance piece Battu in Ragam Vasantha, choreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, in which the dancers demonstrate their joy and passion for dance by describing the various instruments that make up a classical music ensemble. Both Ritika and Sanjana maintained their energy throughout, pairing it with graceful eye movements and nuances that demonstrated their maturity and understanding of the choreography.

The next item was the highlight for many, a very complex Pallavi in Ragam Hamsadhwani, also choreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. This was the debut of this spectacular piece at a Triveni arangetram and represented the hard work of many behind the scenes to make this possible – namely Oami Amarasingham who choreographed their formations, and the girls as well as Prnay Chopra who worked hard with the orchestra to decode the complex rhythmic cycles. The amount of work that the entire team put into this item was reminiscent of a professional performance. Several in the audience were in awe of the execution of such an advanced item at an arangetram. This was followed by their centerpiece, in which the girls depicted the ten avatars of Vishnu through Jayadeva’s Dasavatara Strotram, with very strong abhinaya that made each of the ten avatars feel distinct.

After the intermission, Ritika introduced Kuchipudi by performing her solo - Jayamu Jayamu, a traditional invocation addressed to Balatripurasundari, the patron deity of the Kuchipudi village. Ritika learnt this technically complex and very demanding choreography of Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam from her Kuchipudi teacher, Prnay Chopra. The amount of dedication Ritika put into doing this item justice was evident, and both Ritika and Prnay were extremely excited to bring this item to the Triveni repertoire, as Prnay wielded the nattuvangam for this traditional piece of the Vempati style.

Sanjana then presented a very popular piece in the Kuchipudi repertoire, Krishna Shabdam, as her solo. Choreographed by Raja Reddy, Sanjana excelled in portraying a gopika yearning for Krishna and enticing him with a variety of expressions and gestures. The audience was amazed at the variety of expressions that she was able to produce, and she demonstrated her maturity through this item. Neena Aunty’s patient guidance and expertise brought about this transformation in Sanjana.

Next, the girls enacted the classic Krishna-Yashoda story by dancing to the evergreen song, Krishna Nee Begane Baro in Ragam Yamunakalyani, choreographed in Bharatnatyam. Sanjana excelled in playing the mother Yashoda who scolded the young Krishna, and Ritika was perfect in playing the mischievous, care-free Krishna. The item was a hit with the audience and made us laugh and smile with their depictions. Several audience members remarked that they felt they were watching the real Krishna and Yashoda on stage. It was evident that Neenaji’s teaching guided the girls’ tremendously in producing their authentic expressions.

Finally, the program concluded with a Thillana in Ragam Mahathi, a composition of Madurai R. Muralidharan. The two girls demonstrated their understanding of complex rhythm as they danced with joy to the sounds of the melodious orchestra. This was followed by both of the dancers dancing on the edge of a brass plate, which was a real treat from the audience. This dance, like all others, would not have been possible without the kind and experienced tutelage of Neena Aunty.

The accompanying orchestra consisted of a talented group of professional musicians who enhanced the dancers’ performance with complicated and harmonious rhythms. Their interpretation of three new pieces in the Triveni repertoire made this event a memorable one.

The girls received a standing ovation from the audience. Some comments are below:

“Ritika and Sanjana danced with incredible grace and poise. Their abhinaya was especially powerful and nuanced, from the playful baby Krishna to flirtatious Radha.” – Oami Amarasingham

“As a pair their rhythmic foot work, sculpting of space with their form, expressiveness were in unison!  Their Odissi dance pieces, in particular, were executed with tremendous grace, precision, and ease as well.” – Ravitha Amarasingham

Although an arangetram marks the graduation of a dance student, it does not mean the end of their training. Ritika and Sanjana are very excited to continue learning more about the depth of these art forms, enhancing their understanding of nuance and gesture. They are both very grateful to Neenaji and their other teachers for instilling such a deep love of the art form.

Photo Credit : Ng Photography

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