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Arangetram: Meera Durvasula

Mayuri Venkatesh and Utsavi James

Meera Durvasula presented her Bharatha Natyam arangetram on the 14th of September, 2019 at the Lexington Christian Academy in Lexington, MA. Meera is a student of Guru Jeyanthi Ghatraju of the Natyanjali School of dance, Westford, MA.

Meera took to the stage with confidence and a bright smile. She performed a traditional margam from a range of composers, languages, and ragams. It showed that Meera held a deep passion for the art as something that connected her to culture. She felt each and every piece and her abhinaya (story-telling) abilities were exquisite. One could see the deep bond Meera held with her Guru, and how it helped her perform with ease.

Meera started her performance with a vibrant and joyful Pushpanjali, a contemporary piece by Madurai Muralidharan. This piece was packed with interesting rhythms and intricate footwork combinations which Meera handled without hesitation. The selection for the invocation to Lord Ganesha was a lovely piece by Saint Tulsidas, which Meera presented with grace and emotion. The alarippu followed in Chatursa nadai. This pure dance number was presented by Meera with neat technique.

Meera then danced a beautiful Navasandhi Kavuthuvam, dedicated to Indhra, Lord of the East. This was a unique piece taken from the traditional repertoire and comes from the days where Bharatha Natyam was performed in the temples of South India. Meera very effectively conveyed the aura of Indhra through her powerful movements and expressions.

Following the Kauthuvam was the Jathiswaram, a traditional piece composed by Patnam Subramania Ayer in Bilahari. This particular Jathiswaram is not often performed and showcased the intricate footwork of nritta. The varying speeds of the jathis demonstrated Meera’s versatility in her dancing ability. This was followed by a pleasing musical interlude by the musicians.

Meera then continued to the varnam, the main piece of the recital. The evening’s varnam was Bhavayami Raghuramam, a famous composition that has been performed by many famous dancers over the decades. The varnam is the most complex piece in a Bharatha Natyam recital, and incorporates both Nritta (pure dance steps) and Abhinaya (story telling). Meera demonstrated her ability in both aspects of Bharatha Natyam and carried off the varnam with ease. This particular varnam tells the entire story of the Ramayanam. Meera’s Guru, Jeyanthi Aunty, selected several interesting episodes for the sanchari bhava (elaboration) that literally spanned the entire Ramayanam from Sita Swamyamvaram through Rama Pattabishekam. Meera transported the audience into the stories of the Ramayanam as she portrayed myriad characters from the epic ranging from Rama, Sita and Ravana to Kaikeyi, Mandhara, Guha, Surpanakha, Vali, Sugriva and Hanuman.  The audience was gripped by Meera’s involved storytelling and burst into spontaneous applause at several emotional highpoints.  

In the second half, Meera performed pieces from a wide range of languages and composers. She started off with Durge Durge, a padham composed by Madurai N. Krishnan in Revathi. In this item, she depicted the many forms of the Goddess Durga, and Meera showcased her flexibility and athleticism with each pose. The next piece was in praise of Lord Nataraja, the Thyagaraja kriti Naada Thanumanisham. Meera beautifully highlighted the different aspects of Shiva as she depicted him as the embodiment of the melody and the essence of the Vedas. Following was Shyam Tori Murali Nek Bhajao composed by Saint Sur Das. The bhajan had a nice folksy touch with the use of dandiya sticks as Meera played Radha, who requests Krishna to exchange place with her and dwells on her beloved soulfully. Meera ended her arangetram with a Thillana composed by Sri K.N. Dandayudhapani in Ragamalika. In praise of Lord Shiva, this rhythmic piece along with the beautiful poses created a beautiful blend of melody, rhythm, and movement. It was immediately followed by the Mangalam, where Meera showed gratitude to Lord Nataraja, the Guru, the musicians, the audience, and to Mother Earth for blessing the auspicious day. It was an incredibly emotional moment for all of the friends and family.

The orchestra consisted of eminent artists from India; they not only accompanied Meera on stage, but created an experience that left everyone in awe. Jeyanthi Aunty accompanied on nattuvangam, and she tailored the pieces nicely to Meera’s strengths, making the arangetram incredibly unique and special for Meera. The melodious voice of Smt. Neela Ramanuja on vocal, the crisp rhythm from Sri G.S. Nagaraj’s mridangam, and Sri A.P. Krishna Prasad’s rich flute left the audience wanting to hear more. A new addition to a traditional orchestra was the rhythm pad, played by Sri S.G. Pramath Kiran. It elevated the performance of the items by adding sound effects such as birds, water, and other types of instruments. The musicians on stage coupled with Meera’s excellent dancing transported the audience on a spiritual journey.

Meera mentioned in her speech how this traditional art form connected her with her Indian heritage. With every step of Meera’s performance, her love for dance shone through. Her dancing lit up the stage and left the audience deeply touched. Meera, we are both so proud of you and look forward to many more wonderful performances!

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